kitchen table math, the sequel: Enlightening Parent Night at Local H.S.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Enlightening Parent Night at Local H.S.

My son is in the 8th grade at a rigorous k-9 charter school. (I posted about our high school expansion quest here.) Next year all 9th grade students in the district are shifting from jr. high to the high schools. We want him to stay at the charter school for 9th grade. My son, of course, wants to move to a district school, so we're checking them out.

My husband and I left our neighborhood high school (Rocky Mt.) info night for 8th graders & parents in disbelief. In one hour of presentation by the principal, 4 vice principals and several counselors (not all 7 were in attendance), almost no time was devoted to academics. Here's the gist of that 2 minutes and 27 seconds:
"We have a lot of AP classes."
This is the actual list of concerns of the school represented on a powerpoint slide, my thoughts in parentheses:

  • Safety (how will the parking lot work, traffic, what is an open campus)
  • Student differentiation (There's a club for everyone)
  • Capacity (We aren't a school of choice because we're over capacity and we aren't adding buildings because they are too expensive)
  • School choice (You can't opt in at this school, see above)
  • The Lobo Way (Not too sure on this one, they expect the kids to behave?)

The principal went on to state that the school had 3 specific goals:
1. Meet AYP
2. Prepare children for transitions: from 8th to high school & from high school to post-secondary school
3. He didn't give a third, but mentioned prepping kids for post-secondary education again, then said those were the school's 3 goals.
The bulk of the hour discussed:
  • lunches (6 stations next year)
  • beakfasts offered (They set a record for milk consumption last year!)
  • clubs (If kids aren't involved, they aren't successful students)
  • busses
  • the school's internet powerschool-type program
  • traffic patterns (9th grade gets dropped off with the handicapped kids)
  • how the Spanish teacher had students learning videography by performing and recording a cooking show (in Spanish)
  • assemblies (We're taking students to the local jr. highs and shooting off t-shirts to get them excited for next year!)
  • Lobo 101 (mandatory "how to study & how to use their media center" class)
  • late start one day a week for staff meetings (Bummer - it moves from Monday to Wednesday next year.)
  • did I mention clubs?
I know what you're thinking..."How did they fit all this content into 1 hour?"

SO... we went up to 2 of the vice principals at the end and asked specifically 2 questions: "What differentiates you from the other district high schools?" and "What about the academics?"

Their answer to the first: "Well, we have block scheduling, Collins (Fort Collins HS) has a traditional schedule and Poudre has a mix of schedules."

Their answer to the second after we clarified that we were interested in math and science: "We're the only HS to offer Calculus 3 in the district, so you'd be well served here." (I didn't ask what textbook they were using or what the teacher's qualifications were.) At this point one of the principals fled the auditorium. (This is not an exaggeration.)

In all fairness, half the auditorium had students already in attendance at the school and were probably more interested in traffic, late start and lunches than we were. The night was advertised as "for all parents & students of incoming 9th graders" and the principal did acknowledge that many of us might be new to the school.

On the way home, I thought my husband and I did a great job keeping our bias to ourselves and asked #1 son what he thought of the school.

He liked the block schedule and the late start.

I'm going back today and re-reading all posts on KTMII tagged "high school". I have a lot of research to do before choice applications are due.

Next week my husband will be handling Poudre & Fort Collins H.S.

I'll be at the Core Knowledge conference - stop by & say "hi".


Unknown said...

OK- I have no idea how to fix the font. Sorry!

SteveH said...

It's amazing how many school web sites you can go to and never see the word academics. My son's middle school site only has words like safe, nurturing, and unique potential (which means that it's not their fault).

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, cassy, really. but can you veto this madness entirely and just move on to some non public school?

when I went to hs, it was understood that while I had some input into the choice of where I went, it was not up to me. happily for me, where my parents wanted me to go was where I wanted to go. unhappily for both of us, it was probably not the best school for me, but we didn't know that, and you can only do what you can do.

Have you determined who gets to decide where your son goes? have you determined how much his liking a late start deserves merit in the decision making process? or whatever he is interested in?

Unknown said...

We've got 3 other schools info nights to attend. They can't ALL be this bad! Poudre is one of the top districts in the state.

I'd like him to stay at the charter through 9th grade, then set him free to a public high school. I'd also like to have a little buy-in from him. That may be too much to ask of a 13 year old.

Anonymous said...

The school my 3rd child attended as a freshman and sophomore had block scheduling and he hated it. He said that half of the period was almost always wasted, except for the (occasional) science lab. My brother taught in a high school (which his children attended) which switched to block scheduling and he says the same thing. The only way enough material can be covered is to rely on the lecture format, and most of the students cannot/will not keep up with the pace or absorb the content. There is also a significant issue with retention/continuity, especially in math and foreign languages. When we moved out of that area, one of the major factors in choosing where to live was the need to avoid districts with block scheduling.

Anonymous said...

I'd second the rejection of block scheduling. I advise incoming college freshmen, and those words fill me with dread. Students who theoretically have taken calculus wind up placing into precalc consistently, because they remember almost none of it. The same thing is usually true for science coursework. Worse, if they have math in a fall block one year and a spring block the next, it can be 18 months with no math class, so they just wind up reteaching everything they learned already.

Basically, block scheduling is a way to have lots of wasted time for projects, but they really only cover one semester of material in one semester. There may be exceptions, but I haven't seen them.

Catherine Johnson said...

This is hilarious!!!!

I'm putting this under Greatest Hits.

Catherine Johnson said...

He liked the block schedule and the late start.

oh my god

Catherine Johnson said...

oh my gosh --- how did the Core Knowledge conference go???

I've been haunting their web site of late.

Catherine Johnson said...

Cassy - you look exactly like my sister.

Unknown said...

Core Knowledge was slower than molasses. Makes me wonder about who's attending NCTM this year.