Sunday, December 22, 2013

An Options Tour & Our Final 2013 Board Meeting

Last week a group of us from the board went on an "Options Tour" of visits to several local schools. There are some great innovative lessons happening in Hillsboro classrooms: Qatama's STEAM program showed creative ways to integrate arts, engineering, and literacy as kindergarteners assembled letter shapes. In Tobias's STEM program, a group of kids using an electron microscope analyzed hair samples and other clues as they tried to catch the teacher who stole their pencil sharpener. At Minter Bridge, I watched kids learn a math lesson in Spanish as part of their dual-language program. And we visited the Online Academy (yes, they have a physical building), where a couple of students had come in to work on their lessons while teachers were nearby to answer questions.

Of course, since you've constantly heard me advocating school choice in this blog, you can probably guess where this discussion is going! I think we should be doing more to make such opportunities available to students throughout the district: right now the term "Options Program" is a misnomer, since nearly all students attend their geographically assigned school. Kids can transfer on request, and I encourage you to try this if you like the idea of these programs but are not near a STEM/STEAM/dual-language school, but this seems to be discouraged. Parents who request transfers have told me they were subject to strong attempts at dissuasion by their local staff and made to feel guilty for asking for exceptions to standard policy. Wouldn't parents feel more satisfied if empowered to make these kind of choices on a regular basis, and actively encouraged to choose the program that best fits their child?  

We also had our final board meeting of the year this past Tuesday. We had a discussion of the book "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team", which we had all read in an effort to improve our teamwork, spawning an amusing article in the Argus.  As you will read there, I had somewhat mixed feelings about the value of the exercise.   Apologies to any business consultants I may have offended. 

Other points discussed included:

  • Anti-Bullying programs: Looks like our Youth Activities Council is running some excellent programs in this area. I especially like how they described their efforts to make it positive: "be a friend" instead of just "don't bully". One yellow flag though: there seemed to be a lot of focus on "protected categories". If someone is bullied based on a non-protected category, such as being a religious Christian, are they a less important victim? (Yes, I was told of such a case during the last board campaign.)
  • Legislative priorities: This is another topic that got a good summary in an Argus article, so no need for much more detail here. I continue to point out that we need to have a clear list of unfunded mandates, with dollar costs, that we can pressure our legislators to repeal.
  • Strategic Plan Performance: I was glad to see that bringing our bottom-5% schools up to parity is now shown as an element of the Equity category. Though I do also think it should be considered the top issue in that category, and the other items discussed there (mainly how many teachers are sent to politically correct seminars) are of very little value in comparison.

    That's about it for this year. Have a good Christmas & New Year, and I'll hope to see you back at this blog in 2014!

    1 comment:

    1. Again...the fact that there is no choice is the point. My grandson would do well in an environment that supports his life and language. I am sorry this is not a possibility for him in Hillsboro. Half of his time is spent learning something he does not need to know, which means the other half of the time he is receiving lessons that apply to him. Is it possible to pay 1/2 taxes for this???