High School Reform — New Timeline and More

2012 Mayan Calendar

Gayle Worland Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin Sate Journal has the story, there is a new timeline pushing implementation back to 2012-13,  an extended input process,  some backgorund, a more detailed rational and  much more for the proposed Madison Metropolitan School District High School Curricular Reforms (now apparently officially dubbed Career and College Readiness).

The new document only indirectly presents the Dual Pathways proposal (Executive Summary here), but does refer to the initial roll-out as “difficult.  It does assert (in boldface type):

Our Theory of Action, process and end goals have not changed, but how we articulate this work has become more explicit, transparent and responsive.

I don’t know how to read this.  Obviously the process has changed (if nothing else it is longer).  It is hard to know what to make of the idea that what went wrong was not the process, but that they didn’t “articulate” things in a manner that was sufficiently “explicit, transparent and responsive.”  I understand the explicit, but if transparency and responsiveness are confined to articulation, I think they’ve missed the point and are stuck in the top-down mentality that is a death sentence for any education reform.

Here is the “Theory of Action” (from the Executive Summary):

As indicated elsewhere in the new document, it appears that he ACT standards (and the EPAS), tthe AP requirements and the Common Core Standards will remain at the center of the reforms.  There are a lot of “if/thens” in this, some of which I buy and some of which are difficult to accept.  I’d like to see these all of these assertions of causality examined, but apparently that is not part of the plan.

As to the goals, you can’t argue with increased achievement for all students.

Despite my parsing here, I think there is much that is good here.  The rationale (with data) is necessary (I’d like to see data going back some years, but that may be just me).  The next steps include a variety of committees of district and school staff and despite the defensive assertion that the process hasn’t changed, these committees appear to have real potential for shaping the result.

I don’t see any direct role parents and community members except through the Parent Council and “A specially created business and community council that will meet on a quarterly basis to provide feedback.”  As I have noted before, the Parent Council is too large to be a functioning deliberative body and I’m guessing the “business and community council” will be similarly designed for one-way “articulation” not meaningful policy input (I’m not even going to get started on what is wrong with privileging “business” in this manner).

There are no committees or Councils for students with the Student Senate only mentioned in the context of the previously held forum.   Lessons not learned.

Perhaps to take care of this, the district has set up a feedback page.  Use it, to offer your thoughts.

It also needs to be noted that none of this — not the Dual Pathways, not the new timeline and process — has ever appeared on a Board of Education agenda.  Either the Board is out-of the-loop or the basic principles of open governance have been forgotten.

Here is the new timeline:

2010-2011 Including Summer: Planning Year

District-wide K-12 curricular alignment process to occur with the following results:

  • Established k-12 scope and sequence in all four core content areas.
  • Essential Understandings, knowledge and skills established K-12.
  • High School curricular alignment completed in all four core content areas with established course offerings, sequences and essential understandings, knowledge and skills.
  • Establish initial offerings for consistent accelerated courses to be offered 2011-12.
  • Establish scaffolds and supports to be provided district-wide.
  • Plan for Professional Development implementation developed for implementation 2011-12.Implement the EPAS EXPLORE Assessment with all 8th and 9th grade students.

2011-12: Readiness for Implementation

  • Comprehensive budget aligned to the plan and recommended for approval, November 2011.
  • Comprehensive professional development plan implemented for staff across all four comprehensive high schools to fully implement recommendations set forth by district committees from 2010-11.
  • Implement initial accelerated offerings across all four comprehensive high schools.
  • Finalize course offerings and descriptions for including in 2012-13 course catalogs.

Implement the EPAS EXPLORE and PLAN Assessment with all 8th, 9th and 10th grade students.

2012-13: Implementation

  • Implement consistent course offerings in all four core content areas with options for both acceleration and scaffolding and supports.

I’m going to close by pasting something I put near the top of my first post on this:

Before I delve into the mess and the proposal, I think it is important to say that despite huge and inexcusable problems with the process, many unanswered questions and some real things of concern; there are some good things in the proposal.  One part near the heart of the plan in particular is something I’ve been pushing for years:  open access to advanced classes and programs with supports. In the language of the proposal:

Pathways open to all students. Students are originally identified by Advanced Placement requirements and other suggested guidelines such as EXPLORE /PLAN scores, GPA, past MS/HS performance and MS/HS Recommendation. however, all students would be able to enroll. Students not meeting suggested guidelines but wanting to enroll would receive additional supports (tutoring, skill development classes, AVID, etc.) to ensure success. (emphasis added and I would like to see it added in the implementation).

Right now there are great and at times irrational barriers in place.  These need to go.   I hope this does not get lost as the mess is cleaned up.

I still think those basic ideas of removing barriers of access and providing sufficient supports are essential.  I fully support the extended process, more openness and responsiveness throughout the process, but would like to see those barriers come down and supports go up as soon as possible.  There is no reason to wait another year on this portion.

Thomas J.  Mertz

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1 Comment

Filed under Accountability, Best Practices, education, Equity, Local News, Uncategorized

One response to “High School Reform — New Timeline and More

  1. David Cohen

    Hey, how about they form a Task Force? But seriously, this is the umpteenth time the administration has rolled something out prior to an open discussion with the Board and zero discussion with the parents. As is often the case, parents (and students) are actually more important in the process than the Board. There was a time when parental involvement in decision making was critical for success; however, now that seems to be waning. Kudos for recognizing the need for these changes to be openly discussed. High school changes are the proverbial hydra.

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