It can be frustrating for me as a reporter to have to cut off
the flow of information for a story because of space constraints or
time. Last night after the North Kitsap School Board meeting was
one of those times.
First, we only had so much space set aside in the paper for the
story. (The paper version has about 5 inches less copy than the web
version so I would much prefer folks to read the online story. )
Second, the discussion about this issue ended about 10 minutes
AFTER my deadline of 9:30. Super-duper Sun Night Editor Jim Thomsen
gave me extra time and I handed the story in at about 10:35.
You can read what made it into the story
Here are some tidbits that did not make it:
Two parents, Linda Berry-Marist and Suzanne Christman, told
the school board that their older children, who are now
in college, took honors classes at NK schools and greatly
benefitted from them. Honors classes, which were phased out three
years ago, provided more challenging assignments and a
deeper examinationn of subjects, they said. Both Linda and Suzanne
now have younger children who are heading to high school in NK.
They worry that those students won’t get the same education their
older children enjoyed. Suzanne said plans for “honors designation”
asterisks on transcripts are fine, but that she’s more concerned
that her daughter won’t get the actual honors instruction she needs
to then be successfully prepared for AP classes later in high
school. Linda is worried that accelerating younger students into
classes with older students won’t be a good mix.
When the recommendations were presented, Superintendent
Rick Jones gave quite a long introduction. He pointed out
that the impetus for these changes goes back to 2002
when NK’s Secondary Guiding Principles
were created by a district task force. The vision of those
principles was to move away from tracking students into certain
academic funnels (regular academic classes, honors classes,
AP, career and technical ed etc) and toward a system
that ”de-tracks” and sends all kids into a variety of classes.
Jones said that philosophy was something that drew him to
apply for the superintendent job in NK. He was hired in
2008. Jones then touched on the professional learning
communities model, which he said has not been very well understood
or very well implemented. Despite that, Jones said he and
most staff support the PLCs and hope they can help improve
A new plan for improving the education of the AGATE (or gifted)
students is coming soon. The plan for high-achieving students is
separate from the plan for AGATE kids.
I included quite a bit of what NK School Board member Kathleen
Dassel had to say in my story. She brought a new perspective
to the discussion around the plan for high-achieving students. Her
ability as an attorney was pretty clear last night too. She asked
pointed questions and then asked them again when she didn’t feel
they had been properly answered. She will be an interesting board
member to watch.
NK Assistant Superintendent Shawn Woodward shed a little more
light on what he and other educators refer to as “differentiated
instruction.” The technique “can seem like a nebulous thing,” he
said. But as a teacher, differentiated instruction gives you a menu
of ways and techniques you can use to teach the same topic.
Not every child learns in the same way or at the same pace so
differentiated instruction gives teachers ways to accommodate all
students. This is at the heart of the district’s strategy to
teach all levels of learners in the same classroom and is part of
how district leaders believe they can teach kids who might have
formerly been in an honors curriculum in a regular classroom with
other students who aren’t working at such high
levels. Teachers should not be “teaching to the middle” if
they are properly trained in differentiated instruction, he
NK Board President Tom Anderson and member Ed Strickland had a
few comments at the meeting. Strickland, a former teacher, said
PLCs are the best thing the school district has done in his six
years on the board. Anderson said he supported the high-achieving
recommendations, but also recognized that the emails he receives
about the subject from parents run four to one in favor of a return
to an honors curriculum.
NK parent Ron Turley, who has been a spokesman for the group
that wants a return to an honors curriculum, was very disappointed
last night by the recommendations. He echoed earlier comments that
an honors designation does not mean a student is getting
instruction at the level a true honors class would offer. However,
he also said he believes NK’s attempt to increase its AP offerings
is “definitely a positive.” He also “loves the concept” of
professional learning communities. But promises of enrichment
activities for high-achieving students during the time the teachers
are in PLCs training have not been met.