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The Adams County Record
Council, Idaho
March 14, 2012     The Adams County Record
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March 14, 2012

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Page 10 2007 KIA 1997 GMC Savana 2006 VOLVO 2010 To 2006 2010 Dod le are giving away a HEW iPad2 with every vehicle purchased! iPad2 2006 Chevrolet 2004 Ford 2009 2006 Cadillac 20t0 Jee 201 t Ford 2010 Subaru Subject to prior sale. Plus tax, title and dealer doc. fee of $75. Offer expires March 31,2012 1-877-936-7324 ENTRY AUTO GROUP 1802 SW 4th Ave., Ontario, Oregon Wednesday, March 14, 2012 The Adams County Record Curriculum Committee Weighs Alternatives by Dale Fisk Around 30 people attended the school curriculum planning meeting last Thursday evening. District Superintendent Murray Dalgleish had a series of PowerPoint slides prepared, but the discussion was so lively concerning the issues raised in the first couple slides that the remaining part of the presentation had to be emailed to the committee members for their inspection. The first area of focus was the elementary grades, and whether to continue combining the 5th and 6th grade classes. Mrs. Paradis has been teaching this class, and said it worked well last year, but this year it was not. The consensus of the group was to examine other alternatives. The Traditional Approach Staying with the current system and hiring an additional teacher was another alternative. Last year the district lost three teachers and was only able to hire two to replace them. Whether the district can afford to hire another teacher is not an easy question to answer. Mr. Dalgleish explained that funding from the state is dependent on the number of students enrolled in the fall. In past years the district was guaranteed at least 99% of the previous year's funding, regardless of enrollment, but that is no longer the case. This makes it very hard to know how much funding the schools will get because there is no way to know exactly now many students will enroll. Leveling The alternative of "leveling" occupied the group for some time. Leveling is the concept of students being able to advance at their own learning pace. Faster learners can move up to a higher- level class, unlike the present system where all students are mostly kept together in the same grade according to age. The motive behind leveling is that faster learners get frustrated or bored because they already understand what is being taught, and slower learners get frustrated if they don't understand what is being taught but the class instruction moves on to more advanced level before they are ready. Kids are more motivated when they can make progress. A re-occurring concern of some parents was the prospect of a young student being moved into a class with much older students, and the negative social repercussions of a child not being emotionally ready to interact with older kids. There was a general agreement that measures would have to be put in place to avoid that situation. There was discussion of the possibility of classes of slower students becoming too big for one teacher, while advanced classes might be small, putting the slower students at a disadvantage.. The staff seemed to think this either would not be the case, or if this did start to happen the classes could be divided in a reasonable way. Principal Bonnie Thompson brought up the issue of students who advance to higher levels, saying: "The problem is what do we do with students who are out of a level and it's January?. What do we do with them when they're not to the next level and it's May? What do we do with the kids who have reached all our levels and where do they go?" The Cascade school is using leveling this year, using a $900,000 supplemental levy to fund their program. Mrs. Thompson said, "Schools who are doing leveling are doing it with more staff, not less. I believe Cascade has three grade levels and six teachers." Thompson said she had emailed someone at the Cascade school to get more information, but hadn't heard back from them yet. Thompson also made the point that the progress a student makes is evaluated by how well they do on a "grade level" test. "If you've got a kid that is two grade levels behind and has to take an on-grade-level assessment, that kid is not going to pass it," she stated. l Middle School Another alternative presented was creating a middle school, which would include grades 6 though 8. The idea of moving the 6th graders over to the high school building.was not popular with the group because of the potential for negative social interaction between younger kids and much older students in the same building. Principal Thompson also pointed out that bringing 6th graders from having one teacher that they know well, to having half a dozen teachers and different classrooms, etc. is really hard for kids to adjust to at that age. She said it might be good to only' have and a limited number of classrooms. After a number of alternatives were discussed, Mr. Dalgleish said that ff the middle school idea were implemented, he would keep the 6th graders in the elementary school building. Right now Council has a shortage of elementary school teachers. One advantage of a middle school might be that it would reduce that problem by using time from one or more high school (secondary level) teachers. However, right now there is only one teacher here with the qualifications to teach both elementary and secondary levels. Wayne Freedman brought up the point that sharing teachers with other schools, using , the remote classroom (video & sound) system might help with the teacher shortage. Teacher Bill Borg expressed enthusiasm for the middle school idea, saying he has had experience in small schools where the middle school level was extended down as far as 5th grade. He said introducing kids to higher-level classes in middle school can be beneficial. Wayne Freedman pointed out that state requirements are headed in the direction of exposing kids to more advanced classes at an earlier age; classes that are now considered high school freshman level may well be required for 7th or 8th graders. A parent asked about the possibility of parents, or other people who are not certified teachers, who could volunteer to help at the schools. School Board Chairman Wayne Freedman said this can certainly work, but in his experience it takes an unusual amount of dedication from a parent. His experience has been that parents start out with great enthuSiasm, but busy schedules and other things in life get in the way, and they end up spending less and less time at the school. Lltfle Time to Make Big Changes It became apparent that time is running out for completing any plans for big changes by the next school year. Principal Thompson said, "Realistically, in terms of next year, we only have two options: either go back to the traditional way or create a middle school. By next year we will not have the training and the knowledge to do levels." She said a school in Colorado had spent a considerable amount of time training to switch to using learning levels instead of traditional grade levels. Even though time may be too short to explore changing to a level system for next year, there was a considerable amount of interest in learning more about it. Wayne Freedman asked for a vote as to whether to continue with the traditional system as is'and hire another full time teacher, or create a middle school. Discussion followed, and the vote was changed to determine if the group supported exploring the option of creating a middle school, with the fallback position being going back to the current system and hiring a teacher if too many problems are found with the middle school idea. The consensus was that this was an acceptable plan. Electives By the time all the above issues were talked out, there was little time issue for discussion: what elective classes do we want to offer kids at the elementary level. Mr. Dalgleish listed some examples: music, art, physical education, computers and health. The consensus that kids are raised on computers and often know more about them than the teachers elicited a point from a teacheR. She said she had found, that even though kids know a lot about computers in general, their knowledge of how to use basic programs such as word processing and databases are lacking. The subject was too big to reach conclusions in the remaining time, so everyone was asked to think about it for the next meeting, which is set for Monday, March 19 at 6:00 PM. As time ran out, Mr. Dalgleish announced that the group had only four minutes left to get through 22 more slides, which brought a round of laughter from all present. As the meeting wound down, Wayne Freedman said: "This is, in a way, like running a huge school board meeting. Now you're beginning to see the issues that we struggle with and the options and information backlog that we have to become familiar with to make these kinds of decisions. I really appreciate the dialog we've had tonight. I think we've made some significant decisions. It's helpful to me and to the school board. In closing, Mr. Dalgleish expressed his appreciation of the ongoing meetings and for the people who attend: "The sessions that we are having are really productive, and it's important that you understand that running a school and having your kids in it is a very complex and difficult process. But we can get it done, together."