“We may have a perfectly adequate way of doing something, but that does not mean there cannot be a better way. So we set out to find an alternative way. This is the basis of any improvement that is not fault correction or problem solving.”
― Edward De Bono, Six Thinking Hats
A recent article on Rochester Patch asked "As millions of Americans make resolutions to improve their lives, what could we do right here in Rochester and Rochester Hills to make it an even better place to live?"
What about our schools? This was scarcely addressed in the comments.
Dr. Robert Shaner is starting soon as our new superintendent. Part of his transition plan is listening to parents, teachers, and community members to better understand our needs and goals.
I believe this should be the Year of the Parent in Rochester Community Schools. As we transition to a new superintendent, this should be a year for parents to become more involved in their children's education. Take this year to learn more about what is happening in your children's classrooms, schools, and district. Volunteer there in some capacity. Improve your relationship with your children's teachers. Make your voice heard and let administration know what you value in your schools.
Some of my suggestions include:
- Monthly meetings with the Board of Education trustee responsible for each school. BOE trustees would rotate among the three schools they are responsible for, holding meetings where parents, teachers, and students could ask questions, get information, or hold discussions. This would provide a venue where all parties are comfortable and an opportunity to discuss issues relevant to that particular school.
- Parents on committees for curriculum, athletics, budget, safety, leadership, etc. While the teachers and administrators on these committees possess considerable expertise, parents have an insight into their children that is vital for creating the best education for students. Having parents of elementary, middle, and high school students will bring a needed perspective and foster cooperation between parents and administration.
- Increased parent-teacher communication. The more a parent knows about how and what their child is doing, the more a parent can assist at home. Some districts have automated much of this so that a parent can go online and check to get precise updates on their children. It is also important to address any issues early to prevent learning delays, behavioral issues, or developing into a larger problem.
- Courses for parents on how they can best help their children achieve in school. The Rochester Education Association has put together Teacher Tips for Parents, a worthwhile read on how to help your children succeed. A class or two for parents at the beginning of the year, in addition to curriculum night, explaining how parents can best assist with homework and student attitudes and providing information on parent-teacher communication and the importance of addressing any issues early could help parents unsure on how to make this a very successful year for their children.
- Pre-test results included on report cards. Both the starting point and the ending point are required to determine growth. This could help shift the educational aim from proficiency to growth. A student who has moved from 20% to 80% has improved significantly more than a student who moves from 80% to 85%. It will also raise the question "If a student already knows 80% of the curriculum, is this class right for him?"
- Standards-based learning where students have a homeroom and head to other classrooms for individual subjects based on ability and learning rate. Several school districts have implemented standards-based learning, allowing students to work at their natural paces and ensuring students know a subject before moving to the next level. While this program requires a strong commitment to implement, districts that have usually have seen significant increases in academic success.
- Magnet programs for STEM, International Baccalaureate, Arts & Music, Gifted Education, and other centers. These programs should be elementary through high school, meeting the needs and interests of the variety of students in our district. The large size of our district should be used to accommodate the diverse needs of all students by providing programs adapted to them.
- Summer classes for students looking to advance a grade or intensively study an additional subject. In RCS, it is difficult to skip a grade. To accelerate in math, students must know 90% of the curriculum they would skip. A summer class would allow students who know the majority of the curriculum to learn only what they do not know instead of repeating material they are already proficient on. A student could also enroll in a class or an elective that interests them that they would not have time to study during the standard class schedule. By retaining the current fee structure for the Summer Learning Program, this would have no additional cost to the district.
What is on your wish list? Tell us in the comments below and join the conversation!