Committee to Study the
November 18, 2005
Attending: Anne Freske, Lee Kounovsky, Heather Dorman-Scott, Ken Donner, Shirley Burrus, Terrie Chrones, Jan Ophus, Sue Bowers
Anne Freske opened the meeting at 6:45 a.m. The group approved the agenda she provided, which called of developing priorities among the listed topics and developing corresponding action plans. A Policy Review and an OSBA Convention report were added to the agenda.
The minutes of the November 4 meeting were approved.
Anne opened the discussion about the listed agenda
items. Jan noted that events may
overtake planning in some instances, as two recent resignations (
Jan shared a bit from a meeting he attended the previous
evening at the ESD.
A real area of concern is how to help struggling students. Of 15 sophomores who failed classes last year, 13 have failing grades in two or more core classes again this year. Jan would like to provide tutoring for freshmen that are failing classes now, but would have to take funding from the substitute budget for the rest of the year to do so.
On this subject, Lee shared that a Chicago-area principal reported at a recent workshop that he had implemented a program for struggling freshmen that involved identification of concern and invitation to a study hall after three weeks of school. The invitation became a mandate after 6 weeks, if schoolwork had not improved. At 9 weeks, a peer tutor was assigned. This allowed for extra help without extra costs. Ken noted some similarities with the CMS Skills for Success program, which has been made possible through grant funding (which will be ending next year, as is grant funding for the counselor at Creslane). He saw a lot of familiar names on Jan’s list of struggling students, which led to discussion about the need for a better system in transitioning students from grade 8 to 9. It would be helpful for freshmen teachers to “know the kids” six months before they arrive.
Discussion continued about the need for more personalized education. In years past, kids were expected to conform to the needs of the schools. Today, schools must be more flexible. Jan also noted that flexibility is important so that the system can adapt to skills of teachers and not be hamstrung when staff turnover occurs. Terrie commented, despite the need for personalization, many juniors and seniors would still benefit from somewhat formal instruction, rather than changing the teacher’s role to more of a mentor for those students.
Jan reminded the group that recent research has found that an “ideal” high school ranges from 400-800 students. Schools smaller than that seem to do best by focusing on core subject areas. A real question for us is whether to narrow our focus or continue to strive for broad curricula. Options for meeting broader interests could include online classes and trying to encourage additional staff to articulate curriculum with LCC to offer more College Now classes. Terrie cautioned against expecting that juniors and seniors could meet their needs directly at LCC, noting that the culinary classes there, for example, are generally filled to capacity with their “regular” students.
Anne tried to summarize the discussion to that point, noting that personalization seemed to be a general theme. We also want to keep Creswell kids here and work on reducing the dropout rate. For quite some time, we have graduated around 2/3 of the number of students who are here as ninth graders. Ken noted that lots of the students who are failing are already receiving extra educational services. It may be behavior challenges rather then educational issues that cause many to drop out.
There is a long list of issues to deal with. Anne reminded the group of the need to develop plans to address them. We need to continue to work on developing pathways, remembering all students’ needs—TAG, special ed., and in between. There is also the need to insure staff buy-in, training and the need for stipends. She asked committee members to read the various handouts that had been distributed.
Ken said that Coburg was working on planning 20 years’ out. Even trying to predict 10 years into the future has proven difficult here.
There seems to be agreement that core classes will be taught here. Perhaps a focus should be how to help students make better transitions, both from Middle School to High School and from High School to a 13th year. Jan commented on the need to make a “pitch to the school board” about the need for resources. We need training and support help in order to accomplish more for the students here. Specific suggestions included tutoring, continued focus on Skills for Success, both at the Middle School and High School, reducing class size, looking at the success of the Springfield MS laptop computer program and seeking a grant writer.
Jan reminded the group of his sense of urgency. We have to demonstrate that we can handle the new CRLS (Career-related Learning Standards) requirements for our juniors and beyond with the resources that we currently have. At the same time, we have to meet the needs of our high-risk students. The state is asking us to use more of the RTEC approach, which comes with its own costs. We are facing hard choices and must focus our energy where there is consensus.
Anne suggested that we build our next agenda on the transition piece, looking at the flow between our three different buildings. This would focus on grades 5-9, though the 9-14 grades are another area of concern.
The next meeting was scheduled for 6:45 a.m. on Friday, December 9.
Respectfully submitted, Sue Bowers, Secretary (with thanks to Terrie Chrones for her assistance!)