The local government meetings have been relatively light on agenda items over the summer, so it was a shock to the system when the CDA School District August board meeting agenda was 2 pages long, filled with informational items, presentations, course discussions.
Although half of the agenda is taken up by the consent calendar and is normally a blanket approval, I always suggest checking out the information under every consent calendar item because that is where the bulk of VERY enlightening administrative information regarding the district is kept. For example, monthly expenditures and credit card payments, personnel updates, and "mundane" project bids and contracted services are generally under the consent calendar and give a lot of insight into the district's administrative workings.
At the July 11 school board meeting, the staff got to hear the board's annoyance about the new course requests. Casey Morrisroe expressed his dissatisfaction with receiving the new course requests 6 months after the due date. Morrisroe explained, which Lesli Bjerke repeated at yesterday's August meeting, that because the course requests came to the board at the end of the school year instead of in December, there were already students signed up for these new classes before the board had a chance to review the course proposal form and proposed syllabus. Which in turn made the board feel pressure to approve the courses without in-depth discussions. The staff response the board received in July after those remarks were "we'll do better next time," at the August meeting the response was essentially "this was my first year [as curriculum director], we'll do better next time.
Lesli Bjerke started the discussion with the above comments, but added that although she is ok with the course book list, using Disney+ streaming service may be a little questionable depending on what content will be viewed. The motion to accept the course was approved, but the course will be reviewed by the board at the end of the school year to see if the goals were accomplished and will be a successful class moving forward.
There is a larger discussion around these classes than just having these new remedial classes to help those failing math. It is the fact that there are 278 students currently failing math that have already signed up for these new classes (even before these classes were officially approved). That fact, on top of the dismal spring assessment results for math, ELA, and science, makes the board keenly aware that there is a larger problem with math comprehension that may need to be addressed with teaching or curriculum.
Trent Derrick, Secondary Associate Superintendent, said that although it is concerning that so many high schoolers need remedial math classes they feel these new Concepts classes are a short-term solution to be able to help the students get back into the regular math classes. In a Q&A email to the board, Elementary Assistant Superintendent Patty Morrison laid out the district's issues/goals with the math classes:
a. Initially, we will strive to remediate the learning gaps so students can move from the concepts classes to the standard level track. We want to see a decrease in the concept classes each semester for a given cohort of students.
b. Our 3-year goal is to eliminate the concept classes in our math curriculum by improving student understanding in grades K-8 and developing a viable and effective MTSS (RTI) program in our secondary high schools. If we decrease the initial number of students needing the concept classes entering high school and build the necessary learning supports, all of our incoming freshmen will be able to be enrolled in our standard curriculum track and find success.
c. We need to identify more clearly why so many students struggle with our Integrated Math 2 course. The increase of students needing assistance in Integrated Math 2 indicates a need to review and revise the capacity of our Integrated Math 1 course to prepare our students for Integrated Math.
Reminder that in 2017 the CDA School District changed their math curriculum from the standard Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II to Math 1, Math II, and Math III. The new Concepts remedial classes are for those students who have failed Math I, II or III and will have to take those classes over again for credit. The Concepts are going to be there to be a "softer" version of the regular I, II, III classes that the students cannot pass.
In July Casey Morrisroe said that these new remedial math courses are lessening of standards for students and feel like a participation trophy. He had asked for a side-by-side comparison between the Integrated Math classes and these remedial Concepts classes to see if they align with math goals, but Casey was not at the August meeting and the comparison chart was never mentioned.
Ultimately, these Concepts classes were approved with a mandatory review at the end of the school year to see how many students were able to get back into regular math classes.
Marzano High Reliability Schools (HRS) Framework Implementation
The District administrators want to implement a NEW professional development resource to [kind of] take the place of all the other professional development resources they've already paid for throughout the past couple of years. Marzano High Reliability Schools Framework is the latest "resource" the district wants to use to "become a high-achieving district-of-choice in Idaho and the northwest...by increasing building site efficacy and deepen professional learning community (PLC) structures."
In real-speak, the Marzano Resources' High Reliability Schools (HRS) wants to have the staff from each school be "certified" in this HRS framework as a way to show the world that the staff has gone through even more training and development, and aren't they the best in the land?
In order to certify each of the 18 schools, the Marzano proposal outlines a 3-phase plan to get each school with HRS Levels 1-3 certifications over the next 5 years. "Phases may take multiple years/semesters as needed to ensure HRS processes are implemented with fidelity."
Of course purchasing new resource frameworks and scrapping old resources is never cheap, and this new resource carries a $175,000 price tag for the first year with each additional year being $7,300 PER school building. With 18 school buildings, the district would be spending an additional $131,400 per year. The initial $175,000 will be funded with the last of the ESSER III funds but, according to Dr. Hocker, each additional year of this framework will have to be funded by something else that they are still unsure about at this time.
For clarification, professional development has been on the tip of the district's tongues for the past few years with a lot of the federal ESSER III funds going towards travel, registration and other prof dev contracts.
On top of the $1.3 million in ESSER funds already spent on professional development over the past 3 years, the superintendent wants to spend another $175,000 for Marzano the first year with each additional year being approximately $131,000. Although the board was told that there is never a guarantee that the professional development will help get the students where they need to be for success, they were reminded that "it is a requirement to offer professional development." But one must ask: at what cost?