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Notes from Tuesday, December 9, 2014 8:45 to 10:30 am
Ms. Claytor offered opening remarks regarding the history and the context and the details of how the current K/1 Blended field test is working, and then we watched a video made recently about the current Blended K/1 classrooms Introduction to Leschi Elementary’s Field Test of a Blended Approach–the Best of Both Programs ; Ms. Chin’s and Ms. Guzman’s class. Then we toured those classrooms and got to talk a bit with Ms. Fradkin and Ms. Trudel, Contemporary 2/3 teachers. There were copies of research summary articles out about the research base for the reading, writing, math, and science curricula.
We had an extended feedback/question and answer session. Below please find notes taken by parent volunteer Sam McKagan about some of what happened there. Please note that these notes were taken by one person in real time–these are not a transcription of a recording–and therefore may not be an exact account of what people said but rather a summary. Apologies in advance to those who were there if we missed something or didn’t accurately reflect your comments.
Teachers/staff are named and some parents are named—Brynnen Ford and Sam McKagan (those involved in creating these notes)
P – Is this a step towards something else? Is there a broader plan? Are you going to keep changing the curriculum every few years?
There is no broader plan at this point. We are basing this model on the most research-based, consistent, long-term curricula we have available—this blend is what we expect to have in place going forward. That said, we are a flexible, developing, learning school centered around great students and outstanding professional faculty and we may have additional ideas in future years.
We do have a waiver from the District to use the consistent Montessori math curriculum, so we don’t have to get swept up in future District changes to the math curriculum. The district has changed the curriculum 3 times in the last 5 years, and this has negatively affected our Contemporary students. We want the stability of an excellent, research-based curriculum to best meet the needs of all of our students—meeting them where they are at their incoming level and accelerating them from there.
P – You’ve talked a lot about the pros, what are the cons? What are some of the challenges? How is this going to impact the teachers?
Ms. Trudel – I taught here for 5 years before the Montessori program joined. I felt a divide between the teachers in the two programs, so I’m really excited about having us collaborate and work together. It’s a chance for everybody to see what great teachers we have in both programs.
Initially I was hesitant about this switch because of I wouldn’t be teaching math. I need to be on the cutting edge of best practices, and I don’t want to lose my abilities. So I’m going to have to work really hard on keeping up. I plan on working collaboratively with my partner teacher to plan lessons and do everything except the administering of the lesson.
P – There’s a pretty different philosophy in Montessori about how children engage with work, working in small groups, work plans, etc. Is that going to transfer to the whole day in this new proposal?
Ms. Fradkin—Reading Workshop is structured so it’s whole-class instruction for 15 minutes, then an hour of small group instruction. And I use small groups. So it’s not that different from the Montessori approach. The same is true with Writer’s Workshop and Science.
P – Every year, people ask what’s the difference between the two programs? There’s actually not that much difference between our programs. The biggest difference is the math program.
P – My kid just transferred from Contemporary to Montessori. I’m excited about her getting both and not feeling that big difference. This allows us to get the best of both programs.
P – Is this a done deal or are we kind of thinking about this?
Rhonda – For myself and the staff, it’s what we really want. But the school district still has to approve it. We want to open it up to the community and get feedback so we can work it out.
P – Will the district look to the parents to see if we support it? Do we need to reach out to them?
P – What are some of the milestone dates for making this happen with the district?
Rhonda – We’re working for clarity. Initially they said early January, now it’s not so clear. When I went to the superintendent’s cabinet, there was no one in the room who was opposed it. Everyone said, “Why wouldn’t we do this?” So January, February, because there are enrollment dates. We will have a decision making timeline for you as soon as possible.
P – As the parent of a 2nd grader in Montessori, I think it’s huge that the staff is in favor of this. We know that integrated schools do better for everyone. When I lined up with my African American daughter on the first day of school, the lines were really segregated, and she asked “Which line do I go in?” If we want the world to change, it’s time to take that step.
Marty (board member) – Is what you’re asking the school board for is to implement this in the whole school at once?
Rhonda – yes.
P – Stefan Blanford has a community meeting on December 20. He’s our board representative. I think it would be great to have parents show up at his meeting.
Brynnen – Dr. Blanford invited us all to come to his meeting on December 20 10 am at Douglas Truth Library. Sherry Carr invited us to come to her meeting on December 13 from 8:30 to 10 am. Equity task force members will be at both. We’d love to have you join us. Contact Bryhnen if you want to share a ride there or otherwise coordinate.
P – This is beautiful. This is how we want it to be. I commend you for your passion and wanting to do something about this. My daughter will be leaving this next year. The kids seem happy in the pilot. The history of this school, there’s been lots of change quickly. Can we take a step back and gather data and make sure that this is really the right choice. It’s so powerful. No one wants to say anything if they have concerns. I wonder if we are moving too fast. Can we consider doing only K1 next year?
Rhonda – We’ve had this conversation as a staff. We’ve thought about rolling it forward more slowly. And we’ve decided that we can’t wait. It’s kids’ lives. Another year, for a five-year-old, is a huge time. The longer we wait, the more we perpetuate inequity.
P – There’s data that supports every angle of the program. – Montessori math, Readers and Writers workshop, walk-to programs. We’ll never have enough data to demonstrate everything.
P – This is many years in. We’ve had this conversation for many years. We continue to miss years. We’ve tried a bunch of things. This has been many years in thinking, one more year lost.
P – Down to logistics, how does this affect the sense of community.
Rhonda – right now, there’s an extra reshuffling because we have two programs. Next year, that won’t happen. There will be some flexibility. The new program will have one less shift. You’re with the same kids all day. Typical ways that schools assign classes – you try to get a balance in your classrooms. Opening it up to the whole school makes us more able to do that.
P – You said earlier that 47% of the school is African American now, which is down 21% from when the Montessori program first moved here. That 47% the most underperforming. They are not represented in this room. There’s nothing that tells me that those students are going to do any better in this smart idea than in any other smart idea. What about this, especially because those people don’t seem to be here right now, is going to build trust and build better outcomes for those people? Those families who aren’t here right now who already didn’t trust what’s going on, what’s going to make them trust this? What’s going to be different for the students who we say are the primary focus of this change?
P – When we started at Leschi, there were 300 kids, now there’s 400. Kids aren’t leaving, the percentage is changing because population is growing.
Mr. Donaldson – I was here. It wasn’t like this. It was just dropped. The approach was nothing like this. For me, being here, I’ve talked to the parents who aren’t here. They trust me. When I say I buy into the program, they trust me. I know it can work. The hardest thing right now is the parents. The kids don’t give a damn. We’re making a big deal. The kids – it will work – trust me.
P – It is the parents. How are the kids…
Mr. D – Because the other things haven’t worked. I have all the faith in the world.
Brynnen – Research shows that teacher morale has a huge impact on student performance. Teacher morale is really challenged by the current two-program system. The faculty has said that this proposed change is a start. This is getting rid of some of the barriers, so we can start really addressing the inequitable outcomes for students from a place where we are bringing all of the resources of our school to bear on a common problem.
Mr. Donaldson – this is a big step working towards this.
P – My greatest concern is that the leadership in the school is all coming from the Montessori program. I want to know how the contemporary parents feel about this.
P – That’s an important conversation but it’s a different conversation and doesn’t have any bearing on moving forward with this change. We are taking a large scale step to trying to get everyone involved.
Marty McLaren/School Board – Dr. Blanford has quite a research background, in the conversation about the universal preschool program, there have been studies that show that mixed classrooms show better results for all kids, including kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
P – Everybody’s hearts and minds are thinking about this issue, and everyone wants to come up with a wonderful solution for everyone. It would be simple to have class reps contact parents in every class, and find out what people want. That would be an interesting starting point.
Sam – This meeting is not the only way we’re reaching out to parents. Brynnen and teachers/Ms. Claytor have emailed or called those who’ve raised concerns and identified themselves on the feedback forms and via the email list. Ms. Guzman and Ms. Bolster, both contemporary teachers, said they discussed it with all the parents in their classes in PT conferences, and almost all of the parents they talked to were in support of it. They had initial concerns, but once they understood it, they supported it.
Spanish Bilingual IA – I’ve talked to all the Spanish-speaking parents about this and showed them the video, and they are all very happy about it.
Somali Bilingual IA – We’re here to pass the information on to all the parents.
P – I think a lot of the research has been done. I’ve been getting the information through teachers.
P – It feels like this has happened very fast, and everything is about trying to sell it. I don’t have any sense of what the school really feels about this issue.
Mr. Donaldson – This isn’t just a group. This discussion has been going on for as long as I’ve been here. This year, instead of saying, let’s study it another year, my students are failing, I can’t let it continue another year.
P – We’re concerned about who’s in the room. Can we try to resolve this issue?
P – There are two issues here.
P – I work in a corporate environment. One of the things we look at is long-term success and innovation, and I applaud the team for doing this. I think it’s really powerful that the teachers are in favor of this. It is about the kids. When I came to one of the tours last year, the students gave the tours, there were two fifth graders, one in Montessori. The Contemporary kid said, “The Montessori kids are the ones who are smarter and have all the opportunities.” I asked the Montessori kid, “Is that true?” and she said, “Yeah.”
P – I don’t understand what the drawback would be. I don’t see why we need studies? How would these kids be hurt? Your kids won’t learn as well if they don’t have a sense of community and all being one. That is the most important part of it.
P – That story is heartbreaking. You see it at Thurgood Marshall, at Garfield. I get it. But I just want to be diligent. Before 2008, it was a failing school. Montessori was plunked in. But it has helped the school. What if, somehow, we do this without doing the research, and we start seeing that it’s not working? What does it mean five years down the line if it doesn’t work? Once you give up Montessori, you’re not getting it back?
Mr. D – We’re not giving it up.
P – Right now, more than half of the school is not doing well.
P – I just want to know that we’ve done everything we possibly could to make sure it works. There are people who want a little time to make sure that this is going to be sustainable.
P – My brother and sister go there. I grew up in Kenya with traditional contemporary teaching. I graduated from UW studying teaching and learned about Montessori there. I saw how the students did the math, and I realized the power of it. From the immigrant community, the parents consider the teacher the know-it-all, they have total trust in the teachers. The reason the African immigrant parents are not here is because they have trust in the teachers, and they have six kids and two jobs, and it is a huge sacrifice for them to be here. In terms of our community, one important next step is educating them. If we bring the math home as homework, the parents will not know about it. It would be great to have an after-school program to educate the parents about the math. My mom had a concern, about having two teachers. Now the teacher has more students. Wouldn’t the teacher be burnt out keeping track of all these children at the same time?
Ms. Claytor and others: Thank you. That is an important concern. Yes, the teachers have more children to track, but they are doing so in fewer subjects, so the teachers so far say that it is about equivalent workload-wise. The teachers find that it is like a two-parent family where both parents know the children really well, but that the share of parenting duties and responsibilities is shared between two people, perhaps lightening the load for each person so they can be more able to really connect with kids and take care of themselves.
Others in the room chimed in on this point.
Important Update from the Equity Task Force about the New Blended Approach at Leschi recommended for 2015-16
Goal: To create one program at Leschi that is equitable and accessible to every student.
What: The Equity Taskforce was charged with the looking at our Montessori and Contemporary Programs. We are recommending a single blended approach that will provide the best of both programs to all students at Leschi. Every student would have a team of teachers. One teacher would deliver instruction in mathematics, phonics, grammar, and geography utilizing the Montessori methods, materials and approach. The second teacher would deliver instruction in reading and writing utilizing the Workshop Model developed by Teachers College of Columbia University and science through the National Science Foundation Inquiry kits (which are currently used in the both programs).
Evidence shows that in order to have an equitable learning opportunity for every child, our classrooms must be heterogeneous—integrated by race, culture, home language, and economics. Right now, they are not. Leschi currently has 387 students. We have 211 students in the Contemporary program and 176 students in the Montessori program. We have 9 Contemporary classes and 7 Montessori classes. Racial, cultural, home language, and socio-economic segregation has come to define the two programs. The Blended Model curricular approach offers the best approach to accelerating all students’ learning, starting from their just-right level.
Vision for how the Blended Approach would work:
All students at Leschi would enroll in the same blended approach. Each multi-age class would spend half the day with a Montessori teacher and half the day with a Contemporary teacher. Teachers would work together in pairs to teach two classes of students. Our teams of teachers would work in multi-age grade bands: K/1, 2/3, and 4/5. One of our core values is multiage model because of continuity between families and teachers we would do our best to maintain that teacher, child, family connection as we begin implementation of the blended approach.
Blended Approach Field Test:
This fall, Leschi began a field test in which two K/1 teachers, Ms. Guzmán (Contemporary) and Ms. Chin (Montessori), have combined their classes in a blended model. While this program is new and the full impact cannot yet be evaluated, both teachers are extremely enthusiastic about the initial results, and believe that the new approach is working much better for all students than the previous programs. Here are some of the benefits they have reported:
· Classes are more balanced racially and socio-economically. Research shows that all students learn better in more diverse settings, and our teachers have found experientially that the new balance allows them to focus more accelerating learning by helping each student academically at his or her just right level.
· Teachers work together in collaborative partnerships to meet the needs and see the strengths of each student. Both teachers and parents report that they have better information to help each child, because there are two teachers with different perspectives who know them.
· The children develop more relationships with teachers and staff in the building, which increases accountability.
· Students have the opportunity to learn in a combination of structured work time and self-initiated work (as adults we need to function in both ways).
· Teachers focus on fewer subjects which allows them to go deeper into the curriculum they teach allowing students to develop more rigorous academic standards.
· All students get access to the Montessori math program, which builds from concrete to abstract in a developmentally appropriate way.
· All students have access to Reader’s/Writer’s Workshop out of Teacher’s College at Columbia University in NYC and National Science Foundation Inquiry-based Science, taught by a teacher who is highly trained in these curricula.
Rationale for this recommendation:
We believe that the blended approach would provide a better education for all students at Leschi. We believe that the current two-program system is inequitable, and should not continue for another year. Further, the current field test is working well for the students who are participating in it, and we want to continue their growth next year. Expanding the existing field test for all students is critical to create a challenging and uniform educational experience for all students.
Cost and Funding:
Once the system is implemented, it would be financially sustainable and would not require any more money or time to implement in the long term. The blended program requires an equal number of teachers trained for Montessori and Contemporary education. Therefore, we would need to convert one K/1 Contemporary class to a Montessori class. This would result in a one time initial start-up cost to train one more teacher in the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy, and getting supplies for that classroom. We already have a teacher willing to do Montessori training. The training costs $5,125 and requires 6 weeks over two summers (in the past teachers pay half themselves and the school pays the other half). Leschi currently has extra Montessori supplies to contribute to the additional classroom. The remaining supplies will cost approximately $20,000 (which could be partially through Donors Choose and/or other donations). The new approach would not require any more money or time to implement than our current system after these initial costs.
How Can I Share My Questions or Feedback and How Can I Learn More?
There are Feedback Forms in the office, attached to this information sheet, and online at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1rJwv9pxSN0Qb1GZprrS1WyTFL64mkhgQ2SAaM9nDZDg/viewform?usp=send_form We want to hear from you.
We will have information sessions with Ms. Claytor and members for the Equity Task Force, in addition to opportunities to do informal Q&A on the following dates:
· November 20th 3:30-7 pm: Library drop-in Q&A
· November 22nd 9-3: Library Info Session with Ms. Claytor, Q&A + video of pilot
· November 24th 9-3: Library drop-in Q&A
· November 25th 9-3: Library drop-in Q&A
· December 9th 8:45 am-10 am: Library Info Session with Ms. Claytor, Q&A + video of pilot
· December 11th 5:30-7pm: Blended Future Night
Or please contact a member of the Leschi Equity Task Force:
Myeesha Parker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206.850.6059
Shana Abner, email@example.com
Jan Munger, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam McKagan ,email@example.com , 206.335.4325
Chris Ray Merriweather, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brynnen Ford, email@example.com. 206.328.5769
Marian Ahmed, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerald Donaldson, email@example.com
Leni Bolster, firstname.lastname@example.org
Valerie Chin, email@example.com
Danielle Guzman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Snyder, email@example.com
Rhonda Claytor, firstname.lastname@example.org, 206.252.2950
Volunteering at Leschi
Seattle Public Schools is grateful for each parent and community member who contributes to the success of students. We have thousands of volunteers who work in a variety of capacities in Seattle Public Schools. There many ways to volunteer. Seattle Public Schools Policy No. 5630 recognizes the valuable contribution by volunteers. In order to provide students with a safe environment and allow for a variety of opportunities for volunteering.
All volunteer work must be done under the direction of an assigned teacher, site volunteer coordinator, principal or vice principal.
For the 2014-2015 school year, Seattle Public Schools is now requiring the following for all Volunteers at Leschi Elementary:
** All volunteers are required by Seattle Public Schools to do the following:
Volunteering Check List: Complete these first.
- Volunteer Application
- Background check (WATCH)Screening Form
The background check must be approved by administration before being allowed to participate.