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.

Monday, August 3, 2009

6th grades in motion?: Amherst school chief floats ideas of shift to town's middle school

Hampshire Gazette, August 4, 2009

AMHERST - Alberto Rodriguez, the new superintendent of schools, favors moving the sixth grades to the Amherst Regional Middle School.

This move would "expose sixth-grade students to more intense, rigorous, content-driven curricula," he wrote in a recent report to the School Committee. It would provide them with specialized instruction in math, literature and social studies, he wrote, whereas most elementary school teachers are generalists.

The change would also make it easier to increase enrollment in honors and advanced placement courses, and enable intervention programs for struggling students to start earlier, he wrote.

"The adolescent stage is the most difficult phase in a student's life," Rodriguez wrote, as students mature physically and see themselves as individuals.

"Their attentions turn to exercising independence and developing strong relationships with peers, while avoiding exposure and embarrassment," he wrote. "As these adolescents begin to view themselves and the world they live in differently, keeping them as sixth-graders in the elementary school is delaying the inevitable and contradictory to their socio-emotional development."

Students coming to the Regional Middle School in seventh grade currently attend sixth grade at four elementary schools in Amherst and one each in Shutesbury, Leverett and Pelham. Students typically attend for two years before going to Amherst Regional High School.

Weighing options

Farshid Hajir, of Leverett, chairman of the Regional School Committee, said there could be more "buy-in" from parents and students if the middle school extended to three grades.

"I don't think it's an open-and-shut case," he said. "I look forward to hearing all points of view." The debate could begin at the School Committee meeting Aug. 18, he said.

No one seems to be saying that having the sixth grade in the elementary schools isn't working, he said.

"The conversation will be about what is the best configuration for the middle school," he said. "Is our middle school giving our kids the best education it can, or can it be improved? Is the grade configuration holding it back?"

There are some concerns over whether sixth-graders are mature enough to attend the middle school, he said. Those living in Shutesbury and Leverett also would have to wake up much earlier to catch the bus, he said.

The issue should be strictly educational and not related to space or money, both of which could be worked out, he said. As an issue, it is separate from K through 12 regionalization, the closing of Mark's Meadow School, and the redrawing of elementary district lines, he said.

Could the change be implemented a year from now? "It's possible, but that's a difficult time line to carry out," Hajir said.

The question is whether the four towns are preparing sixth-graders well for seventh through 12th grades, wrote Amherst School Committee member Catherine Sanderson on her blog.

"We are setting up the middle school almost to fail," she wrote. "We throw 300 or so kids there in seventh grade from seven different schools, and then we tell the seventh-grade teachers to teach all of them well, and hey, you all only get these kids for two years."

Moving the sixth grade while maintaining the status quo at the middle school is insufficient, Rodriguez wrote.

"It is just one piece of a larger, strategic vision of creating a world-class educational system that looks beyond the MCAS and prepares our students for a 'future we can't even describe,'" he wrote.


Tom G said...

The new super must be a quick study to be trial ballooning this change having just arrived. He spoke about identifying three or four major objectives for his first three years. I think he might want to identify those and put them in order of priority. Get buy-in with the board and move on to implementation.

Maybe he's done that and I missed it.

Still wondering said...

Is there something wrong with the way 6th graders are currently taught here? Is there data on this that we can all look at?

Also, I'm all for a rigorous and demanding curriculum for early adolescents, I just don't think the middle school provides anything close to this consistently so why put Amherst 6th graders through this mediocre experience?

I would like to hear more from the Superintendent about the problems at the middle school, other than the problem of it only being 2 years.

Anonymous said...

This sounds a whole lot like UMass Chancellor Holub reorganizing colleges in his first year -- big showy move he can point to in the interviews for his next job, but that has little to do with the needs or desires of the system he just started running.

I hope the Amherst SC and community are neither dumb enough to fall for it, nor too weak to resist it.

Parent Against Moving 6th Grade to the Middle School Now said...

I agree with all three of the previous posters. There are alot of things that need improving in the Amherst Regional school system and I just don't see the 6th grade at the top of the list. From what I hear our 6th graders are already having a very good experience in school with a good strong program. Some of the 6th grade teachers may be a little better than others but in general I think people are happy with the 6th grade experience.

However, the middle school seems to be mired in mediocrity. I think bringing the middle school out of mediocrity should be at the top of the Superintendent's list of things to do. I don't think bringing he 6th grade to the middle school will address the many problems at ths school. Let's fix what ails the middle school first before we bring yet another grade in to suffer through its mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Dr. R supposed to be a good communicator and consensus builder? Wasn't that the reason the SC gave for hiring him over the way more experienced candidate from West Hartford?

Rick said...

I spent 2 hours with Rodriguez yesterday in two meetings (not about this subject). This guy is good. He was not my top choice, but I am glad he was the one picked. Night and day from his predecessor. He is definitely worth giving a chance to – so I urge you all to give him a chance.

I tend to agree with commenter’s above – except for one thing: I think the point here is not to improve what happens in 6th grade, rather it’s to improve what happens to 6th graders when they enter 7th grade. I am not clear on how that will be done, but let’s see what the plan is – this discussion has only just begun – so there is plenty of time to listen (first) and speak.

As this gets discussed, I would urge you to listen to whatever Rodriguez’ reasoning is as the discussion unfolds.

Parent Against Moving 6th Grade to the Middle School Now said...

The thing I fear, Rick, is that the Superintendent will not listen. I think he and some SC members already have their minds made up to move the 6th grade. I get the impression he and some SC members are not interested in a discussion - they just want to make the move. I am not worried about parents or teachers not listening. I am VERY worried about the ones who count not listening.

Rick said...

I guess I would say that there is no point in worrying about whether or not he listens. Just say what you have to say and see if he listens. All I can see is he sure listened to me and others during the 2 hours I spent with him.

Also, if you do this, and he does not agree with what you say, don’t confuse that with not “listening”. Too many people – not necessarily you – say “he/she didn’t listen to me” when what they really mean is “he/she didn’t do what I wanted”.

Anonymous said...

Well said Rick. That's exactly what I was hearing when the decision was made to close Marks Meadow. People said there wasn't enough discussion, or we haven't heard all sides. When in fact, it was discussed to the Nth degree, and because some people didn't like the outcome, they cried foul. You're exactly right when you say, he is listening, but because he doesn't decide to do what a particular group wants, that doesn't mean he wasn't listening, he just decided differently.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Tom G - I was surprised during the interviews about the consistency of candidates' views about where 6th grades should be -- which was also a view held by Dr. Hochman. So, I'm not sure if this is an issue that at least for superintendents seems to be that tricky. I do believe, however, that he is going to need to identify a few major objectives, and the board will have to agree on what these are. I think this will happen in the August, and September, meetings -- it hasn't happened yet!

Still Wondering - I've heard from the new superintendent that kids can get exposed to more rigorous material when taught by people with discipline specific knowledge -- not that there is something "wrong" with how 6th grade is now taught, but that there could be advantages (I imagine this would be particularly true in math/science) from having teachers with a speciality, as occurs in the MS. I've heard this from superintendents, and from MS teachers as well. Now, that being said, I've also been vocal about my concerns about the rigor/challenge in the MS right now, so this argument that specialization of disciplines LEADS to more rigor is obviously flawed ... because we don't see that NOW in the 7th/8th grades. I made that point at an SC meeting in May, and then was criticized widely by some MS teachers -- but I do agree this is the key problem. So, I think the issue then becomes -- if the MS were in fact rigorous and challenging in 7th/8th, and we could offer kids in 6th grade a rigorous and challenging curriculum in that building (which could then include things like world language), would you think more positively about it? I've heard other problems with it being a two year school (e.g., not enough parent buy-in, kids don't feel settled/secure because of transitions), but the key thing for me is what are we expecting/asking of them academically, and that needs to change BEFORE we add another grade.

Anonymous 11:08 - as I've pointed out before -- the placement of 6th grade was an issue noted continually by superintendent candidates last year. In addition, when we redistrict the elementary schools, we need to know whether we are moving 7 grades into the schools or 6 grades. So, this issue needs to be decided (either way), and in that sense, Dr. Rodriguez doesn't have a choice about expressing an opinion (given the vote BEFORE his arrival to close MM).

Parent Against -- I actually agree with you completely (I think). I won't support a move of the 6th grade if the current MS system stays the same -- and can't imagine that just moving that grade and hiring specialized teachers will solve the problems that I see/hear. However, IF Dr. Rodriguez comes up with a clear and specific plan to improve the MS experience, and we see tangible evidence of such a move, I would feel differently. I am hoping we can learn in a few weeks what he might suggest in terms of MS improvements/strategies/timelines. This does seem like a crucial first step (regardless of whether 6th grade stays or moves).

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response:

Anonymous 11:39 - the SC members who voted for him certainly believed he would build consensus and communicate well -- and I certainly hear him doing a lot of communicating! I am looking forward to seeing how he works on consensus, but remember, consensus is NOT always possible (e.g., close MM/keep MM open). And ultimately, the SC hired him to make education work as well as possible for all kids -- and I look forward to seeing how he accomplishes that goal (and for me, getting that accomplished is MORE important than whether each and every parent/teacher/citizen feels like he has built consensus).

Rick - I agree that Dr. Rodriguez deserves a chance ... I mean, he's only one month into his job! I also think that he is doing a GREAT job of trying to think about our system K to 12, not just "what is best for 6th graders." If you read the report, he notes that moving the 6th grade could help more HS kids take advanced/honors classes, for example, and could help the 7th grade experience (e.g., if all teachers could get to know and work on consistency with kids for an extra year BEFORE 7th grade). Again, it is legitimate to question how a 6th grade move would accomplish that, but I think he is clearly thinking K to 12, which is frankly unusual in our district.

Parent Against Moving - I'm on the SC, and I am going to guess that it takes 3 votes to move the 6th grade (if the votes are on the Amherst committee that is). I haven't made up my mind, and I'm certain Steve Rivkin hasn't. I don't know where the other three members are, but unless you've talked to the other three and they are all convinced the 6th grade should move, there is very much a discussion. Remember, SC members run for election -- and so SC members are accountable to the public. But personally, as I've noted before, I take comments and suggestions from KNOWN people (either on my blog or to my private email) much more seriously than I do comments from anonymous posters. If you have thoughts that you want taken seriously, communicate them using YOUR name (on this blog, to my email, or at an SC meeting).

Rick - well said ... it seems clear that listening in Amherst often means changing your mind -- not the same thing. I do think the new superintendent is listening carefully -- and I encourage parents/teachers/community members to come to the August SC meetings to meet him and learn more about his style/views/beliefs.

Anonymous 3:26 - agreed! I think there is NO amount of dialogue we could have had about MM that would have satisfied people if the decision was to close it. And I think we may well be in for more such discussion/listening/accusation this year -- probably about how lines are drawn in the redistricting and about the placement of 6th grade.

One more thing -- a bunch of people have said "well, what do the 6th grade teachers think?" but it is striking to me that not ONE person has said "well, what do the 7th grade teachers think?" And the 7th grade teachers/MS administrators who I've talked to think it would be GREAT to have 6th grade in the MS ... again, this is why I think the issue becomes much more than "where do the 6th graders learn best?" and really should be about "how can we have the best system possible in ALL grades K to 12?" That to me is the question -- and thus I'd like to hear not just from 6th grade teachers, but also from 7th grade teachers (again, who I believe we have given an impossible task).

Seriously anonymous said...

The 6-8 grade middle school model is the predominant one across the State. The Amherst 7-8 grade model is the "junior high" holdover model which is at least 25years out of date. Thats why all the superintendent candidates identified it as a major priority to move the 6th grade.

Everyone who has MS math instruction issues can still bang their drums while the student body as a whole gets age-appropriate instruction.
These issues do not need to be tackled one-by-one; this community is smart enough to chew gum and walk at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you said except the last statement. Have you been downtown lately?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Seriously anonymous - I actually looked up the grade configurations of all of the other MSAN schools (Amherst is one, there are 22 others). Of the 22 (not including Amherst), 17 have 6 to 8 middle schools, 2 have K to 8 schools, 1 has a 6/7 school and an 8/9 school, and 2 have, like Amherst, a 7/8 school. So, again, the 6 to 8 concept is NOT a new one, nor an unusual one (all three finalists for the Amherst superintendent came from districts that had 6 to 8 middle schools -- Northampton, Miami, West Hartford). So, I don't think Dr. Rodriguez's idea is really revolutionary. However, it strikes me as the key concern people have about this move is that the MS is not now seen as very good, and thus people don't want to prolong time spent in that school - a point I've made repeatedly, and I think this is the key issue. Let's first make the MS excellent ... and that should be a goal regardless of whether it is 7/8 or 6 to 8.

Anonymous 10:42 - ummm, I'm going to pass on giving a comment here.

Anonymous said...

As a member of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, I'm troubled by one aspect of this conversation - the encouragement for change by one group (the 7th grade teachers) that will impact the career futures of another group (the 6th grade teachers). It is likely to produce very divisive results.

I'm sure the intent is to hear from 7th grade teachers regarding the advantanges and disadvantages of moving the students. But one inevitable result of the change some of them appear to be supporting in commments to you is a disruption in the job security and satisfaction of all 6th grade teachers, and the job security of a few younger K-5 teachers.

As I understand the proposal from the new superintendent, 6th grade teachers in his ideal Middle School would be responsible for teaching a single subject and they would have to be certified to teach that subject. I would guess that all, or most, of the present
6th grade teachers lack that certification. In order to continue as 6th grade teachers in this new model they would have to begin a lenghty and expensive course of study to become certified and they would have to give up the whole child/all day teaching experience. Assuming many choose not to follow this course their only recourse is to bump younger colleagues with less seniority from their jobs (a painful option) or leave the system entirely (no less painful).

From what I've heard in conversations around town, and from what I've read on this blog, the present group of 6th grade teachers is talented, and they are teaching 6th graders because they choose to work with that age group. Being that this 6th grade to Middle School topic has been on the table for many months and we haven't yet heard, as far as I know, public words of support for the idea from a single 6th grade teacher (even when it was framed in a continuation of the whole child/all day model) I think we have heard from the 6th grade teachers already. The silence is deafening.

The 6th grade teachers may have to face unpleasant choices if the decision is made to move to a 6-8 Middle School. What bothers me is that 7th grade teachers are being invited into a conversation that won't negatively impact their own job security or satisfaction but
could well do that to 6th grade teachers and others.

I would think the local teachers association by-laws or code of ethics would discourage one group of union members from involving themselves in decisions that affect other union members'
career futures. I can't believe the local union president would be happy if they did.

Abbie said...

To anon@1121,

while I can appreciate the difficult position some 7th grade teachers might feel when relating their "professional" opinion about what is the better setting for our sixth-graders (elementary or middle) I have to disagree with your suggestion that the union ought to override what is best for the children. Actually I am appalled, if I understand you correctly.

I, too, am a member of a educational union and I find myself disagreeing frequently with the union, although in general I think unions have served (and sometimes continue to) a necessary function.

It seems that because of the teachers union we are "stuck" with poor performing teachers to name one of the disasterous outcomes of having a union. But that's life...

This seems like a "damned if you do or damned if you don't" situation. There will be folks demanding to know what the teachers think is the best thing and then there will be those that would just like to keep the status quo regardless of what is the best option (on which I have yet to form an opinion as all the facts/issues aren't in).

I seriously hope that the Union keeps their opinions out of the discussion, as they don't have the expertise required in this case (as far as I am concerned). So obviously I wouldn't care a fig for what the local union president thinks.

This isn't an issue of what is best for a group of teachers, this is a question about what is best for 6th grade children in the larger picture of k-12 education!

Anonymous said...

From Anon 11:21 to Abbie:

I'm afraid you didn't understand me correctly, or I didn't make myself clear enough.

I agree with you that this is about what is best for kids, not a small group of teachers. My only point is that any teacher, whether a union member or not, ought to be very careful about advocating for decisions that impact the job security of another teacher, in this particular situation. We are not talking here about protecting poor teachers, we are talking about potentially losing to the system some very talented teachers who have already done what's best for 6th graders.

Rick said...

Anon 11:21:

You make a good point, except where I disagree with you is that you seem to assume that the Superintendent won’t be taking these things into account. I think it’s extremely doubtful that he’s going to chuck out a bunch of non-certified teachers in order to do this, if in fact he ends up doing it.

Also, there is a difference between job security and having to change a bit to keep your job. If it’s better for the kids to have multiple teachers – and we don’t know that yet – then I am definitely in favor of teachers having to get certified to keep their jobs – but ideally with help from ARPS if it costs money to do that. I imagine that many of us have been asked to change how we do our job in order to keep it – this is not unusual.

BTW: my kids did not go to the Amherst elementary schools (just ARMS and ARHS). It’s really one teacher teaches all in 6th grade? Boy when I went to school – decades ago – multiple teachers started in 4th grade.

Abbie said...

To anon@1228

perhaps there is a difference between "advocating" and offering an informed opinion??

I certainly think that teachers ought to provide their "professional" opinions in this matter, if offered objectively.

I would be sorry if any teachers were to lose their jobs in a change to 6th in MS (if that was determined to be the best option) BUT it shouldn't impact the decision. I am glad we have great 6th grade teachers and would be sorry if we lost them or more junior great teachers but what should drive the discussion (always) is what is best educationally for the students.

Rick said...

I realize that I may have missed that certification is not a small thing, so maybe it is a big deal. Need to know more about that...

Anonymous said...

The decision is on the table. The party has been invited to dine. The 6th grade will be in the middle school regardless of what impact it has on the kids because the powers that be have already decided to place the 6th graders in the middle school. All this "talk" is just frosting on their cake!

Anonymous said...

Leave off the criticism of Hochman. He did a ton - particularly on sensitive race issues, as well as structural stuff that is not sexy but is critical This town has been in the dark ages and he moved it into this generation. Superintendents take on discrete issues (like Rodriguez is doing ) and we need to give Hochman his due.

Anonymous said...

Criticism of Hochman? Did I miss something? I thought we were talking about the appropriateness of MS teachers making comments that would affect the careers of elementary teachers.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 11:21 - I believe that all teachers, and adminstrators, should focus on what is good for all kids (K to 12). That means I also care about the high school teachers' perspective -- would kids come to 9th grade better prepared if they had discipline specific instruction in 6th versus 7th? Would our kids have more opportunities to complete higher levels of world language if we started language in 6th, not 7th? Again, I think it is really unfortunate to frame this as "6th grade teachers versus 7th grade teachers." No one is suggesting that all 6th grade teachers would be fired -- that can't happen, which I'm sure you know. If a move occurred, 6th grade teachers could opt to teach a younger grade (I know teachers at Fort River that have regularly switched between different grades, as needs arose), or to become certified to teach a particular subject (something that the district and maybe even the town should help with), and of course they would also have the option of moving to another district and continuing to teach 6th grade in an elementary school setting. One could also imagine offering all K to 5 teachers the OPTION to get certified (I know this has occurred in other districts), which might be very appealing to some teachers. And I have no idea what the 6th grade teachers think -- I certainly don't assume that all read my blog, nor have I heard a single teacher using his/her own name express a positive or negative comment about this -- nor do I think some are being invited into the conversation and some are not! This proposal is new - and I imagine the new superintendent will be presenting his idea and rationale officially at an August SC meeting, and will then begin a dialogue with parents and teachers. Let's not ASSUME based on reading one blog from one SC member that some people are or are not invited into the conversation -- which I think is just now beginning.

Abbie - I agree with all you said -- particularly the last line: "This isn't an issue of what is best for a group of teachers, this is a question about what is best for 6th grade children in the larger picture of k-12 education!"

Anonymous 12:21/12:38 - no one is suggesting, or has ever suggested, that all 6th grade teachers would be fired. It is possible that some would have to teach 5th grade -- they would also have the option to become certified, and I think it would be entirely right and fair for the district to cover those costs (for any teachers who were interested). Moreover, we lost some talented teachers at the MS last year because of budget cuts -- if we had moved 6th grade for THIS year, we could have saved those teachers. I think the district needs to think about the totality of the K to 12 experience, and I would hope that all teachers would focus on making sure the system works well for kids (even if that means some changes professionally for themselves).

Rick - great points (and thanks for using your name!). Many people have to change how they do their job over time -- my own dept. is making a bunch of changes in our curriculum (NOT because the faculty want to make changes to courses they have taught for years, but because we think it is good for kids' learning), and that means we are all revamping our courses and some of us are learning to teach NEW courses. Again, that happens and it is OK! I also agree that there is NO sign that Dr. Rodriguez is just going to go in and fire a bunch of teachers ... and you raise the important point that in many districts, kids do get taught in discipline specific subjects by specialists before 7th grade.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

More responses:

Abbie (again) - agree with all you say. Thanks!

Rick - I don't know what certification requires, nor do I have any idea if any 6th (or 5th, or 4th, etc.) teachers have it. But this seems like something that the district should be willing to invest in -- and maybe this would be a place in which U Mass could help?

Anonymous 6:16 - Unless you are a member of the SC, I have no idea how you can have this certainty. It is clear what that superintendent wants - but he will need three votes from the Amherst committee. I don't know if he has mine, and I don't know of any other votes that he has. But if you've already talked to three members of SC who have confirmed they will vote for this, you should (from your safe anonymous perch) at least identify who they are so that the public can share their feelings with those three members.

Anonymous 9:13 - I wasn't paying any attention to the schools before Hochman's tenure -- so I have no idea what he did or did not accomplish. I do know that the report by Hamer lays out some pretty big concerns, and those didn't just happen overnight. Were those problems worse before Hochman's time here? I have no way of knowing -- nor do I think this is really relevant now?

Anonymous 9:58 - agreed!

Anonymous said...

When I was in the 6th grade (over 40 years ago) we had discipline specific teachers (math, English, history and science) AND we were taught in the elementary school (K-6 school). There were 4 classrooms at the end of the school and we all rotated to each class during the day. We each had a homeroom and each homeroom stayed together during the day during the rotation. It worked great!! It shows that you can possible have the best of both worlds, if people were concerned about moving the 6th grade out of the elementary school environment. You can have disciline related instruction in the elementary school for the 6th graders.

Anonymous said...

From 1:21 and 12:28

Where did you get the idea, from my comments,that the new superintendent was going to "fire" 6th grade teachers?
You have an uncanny ability to put words in the mouths of people who disagree with you or even raise questions about positions you take.

Anonymous said...

Maybe because your anger is showing through more clearly than your comment. With so much anger spewing from your blog at Ms. Sanderson, why don't you find another place to blog and take your negativity somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

From 11:21 and 12:28 to Anon 7:58

Not sure about what you mean by "my anger". Can you elaborate.

As far as my "negativity" being taken to another blog instead of this one, I thought Catherine wanted to hear all points of view here, whether they were in sync with her or not.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Anonymous 11:57 - this could happen, but it would be expensive. Right now, we don't have four teachers teaching 6th grade in any of the elementary schools -- it ranges from 1 (in MM, I think) to 3 (in FR) -- I think CF is at 2 teachers, and WW is at 3. So, to get four teachers in each of those schools for next year, you'd need 16 teachers -- we are using 9. Even after MM closes, it would take 8 teachers if all the 6th grade was at the MS, but 12 (assuming 3 classes at each of three schools X 4 teachers) in this model. This also doesn't include world language, which could be offered to 6th graders if in the MS. Again, it is a good idea -- but fiscally very hard to imagine.

Anonymous 7:18 - probably through comments like the 6th grade teachers would have to "give up job security" or "leave the district". Those seem to imply that a move of 6th grade to the MS would disrupt job satisfaction and job security, right? But in reality, if 6th grade teachers have professional status, they would have no change in job security if they simply chose to teach another grade.

Anonymous 7:58 - I agree the comments seem angry ... another reason why I've encouraged those who post who criticism to do so using their actual name (which I think makes one think more carefully about the words/tone one uses).

Anonymous 8:14 - I do want to hear all points of view -- but ideally I'd like to hear them reflected in reality (e.g., not to imply that you've talked to all 6th grade teachers, or that 6th grade teachers would lose job security and satisfaction, or that 7th grade teachers ONLY are invited into a conversation). Again, I'd encourage you to use your actual name -- which I think would mean the words you say would have a greater impact on my own thoughts about this issue (if you are willing to own them, as I am willing to own all of my comments on my blog).

Rick said...

The concern raised by Anon 11:21 above about certification being required for teachers moving from ‘one-teacher-for-all-courses’ to ‘one-teacher-per-course’ seems like it may be a valid one – and I didn’t see any anger in it – although none of us know anything about the details of that, including:

a. Is this true? Is certification required for that?
b. If so, what is involved with getting it?
c. How many 6th grade teachers already have it?
d. Etc…

If this is an issue, I doubt if Rodriguez is not aware of it and he probably has some ideas on it – let’s hear what he has to say on it.

As an aside, this is a good example of where there are competing interests that should be worked out rather than create a battle before we even know if there is something to have a war about.

On the one hand the primary goal has to be what is good for the students. On the other hand we should do everything we can to make it so that teachers don’t suffer in the process. It should not be an “us and them” thing – should be a “we” thing. I know that's naive...but why not?

The more we work with and listen to folks who might get hurt during a change, the more likely we are to get buy in from them on perhaps giving up something (if that is necessary) to do what’s best for the kids.

Anonymous said...

From Anon 8:14

Somehow it still feels like you're putting words in my mouth. I can't find anywhere in my comments the idea that ONLY 7th grade teachers were being invited into the conversation. My comments did concentrate on them because if this change does happen they could be working down the hallway from some present 6th grade teachers in a relationship that will need to be harmonious and collaboratve if it's to be successful. I was trying to caution against a situation that could potentially damage the trust or feelings of comfort between the groups. Yes, I used the term
"7th grade teachers" but never the word ONLY.
Also am having trouble finding the words that imply I've "talked" to all 6th grade teachers. Note the "as far as I know" part of the "We haven't heard.." sentence. Making a guess of an interpretation about their "public" silence is different than claiming to have talked to each and every one of them.
Finally, about the anonymous business. I choose to be anonymous for a variety
reasons. Chief among them is the desire to have readers consider my idea rather than my person. I know enough teachers and parents in this town to think if I attached my name to a particular idea some might like it better and others might like it less. You can relate to that feeling, no? I think it's better if people stick to ideas, rather than personalities.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Anon. 2:31 PM
CS stick to the ideas presented here...whether you like them or not and stop trying to call out person(s)(alities)...a lot of important facts are being shared with you--ones you really might appreciate being made aware of...instead of dismissing by referring to them/us as vultures on an 'anynomous perch'...

Tom G said...

My point wasn't to argue the merits of the proposal to move the 6th grade. That said, I think a lot of good discussion has come from that proposal.

My point was that the super should take the time to scope out the major problems and frame his solutions as his major objectives. Until you identify them, you cannot prioritize them and get buy-in for the initiatives.

It's not a matter of doing them one at a time, it's a matter of scoping the work, getting approval, support and resources, and then moving forward with implementation.

From what CS has commented, I'm confident that process or something akin to it is being undertaken. Thanks.

Tom G said...

Also, if the new super has begun the process of redistricting it may make a lot of sense to make the decision about sixth grade now rather than later. He has the data, he would know.