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 Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School

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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:08 pm

concerned parent wrote:
I am a parent of a child who attends Howe Magnet School. I received the first letter yesterday and was not aware that "structural changes" actually meant a move to Central Park Middle School.
My question to Mr. Ely is "Why the vagueness?" If I had not asked about this letter I wouldn't have known what this discussion on Tuesday was to be about. I proabably would not have even made the decision to attend.

I also would like to ask you why were the teachers and staff not invited to meet with you before this coming meeting. I have seen them and they have the look of someone who has just had the rug pulled out from under them. I don't understand why you would want to go into this informational meeting and not have the staff of Howe and Central Park on your team. I find this to be quite disrespectful to all of those dedicated teachers and staff who have made Howe school what it is today.

A: The letter you refer to was written and sent home by the building principal. I have not seen this letter, however I assure you there is no intent to keep anything from the parents or staff. This proposal was presented to the principals involved previously and we have been discussing this possiblity for several years. While we have been unable to find a way of expanding the Howe program to a K-8 we are now in a unique position to at least give it serious consideration and ultimately finally accomplish a goal set by the district's strategic plan six years ago.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:19 pm

tdrparent wrote:
I'm working my way through the proposal and am trying to understand some of the numbers. Where does the projected number of 7th graders (in the first table, without the proposed changes) at Central Park next year (124) come from? If you take the 60 6th graders that are already there, and add in the 6th graders from the feeder schools other than MLKing - 21 from Keane, 37 from Paige and 49 from Woodlawn - you get 167 kids, not the 124 mentioned in the proposal.

A related question is where are the 6th graders from Blodgett and Roosevelt slated to go for 7th grade?

Thanks for this opportunity to get questions answered....

A: The number of seventh grade students projected includes the current 60 sixth graders at CPMS and the current sixth grade students at Howe. The remaining sixth grade students in the district would matriculate to either Oneida or Mont Pleasant for seventh grade as well as having the option to fill vacant slots at the new K-8 setting at King and the proposed K-8 at Central Park.

The current sixth grade students at Blodgett and Roosevelt are slated to go to seventh grade at Mont Pleasant.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:32 pm

mickey011901 wrote:
Well,
I just heard of this news today about the changing to Central Park middle school and expanding to a K-8 which I think is a great idea because I think ALL of our children would be more comfortable being in a new school with the same teachers and same faces verses having to transfer to a different middle school in 7th grade which could be hard for them. As well as have any of you heard how BAD these middle schools are here in Schenectady, I hear a horror story about mont plesant or Central park at least twice a week. I would feel more comfortable knowing my kids are comfortable and able to stay in the same school until High school. Do you ALL want your kids going to these bad middle schools? Not that the teachers or academics are bad but the students in these schools have no morals and don't care. I hear about horrible violence, I think with the teachers and staff we currently have at HOWE transfering to the new building would be a warm transition for these kids but we need the positive influence of the teachers in order for these students to make this smooth transition. It's not easy for me either, my kids were at another school for 3 years and moved to HOWE this year and now they are comfortable and love it, but I was and am concerned about middle school, but if these happens I will be at ease. I was going to be to interdistrict them to Scotia and I know many other parents that were as well. There are a few questions I do have for Mr. Ely though. Will there be a playground installed before the transition for the young children? What about Parking? I am a bit pondered on how the school is going to let the 6th and 7th graders that are there stay being howe has it's own 6th graders that will be moving to 7tth grade and 5 graders that will be moving to 6th grade and with that being said I think it would be to over crowded if the current central park students were allowed to stay as well. I feel that if this is a HOWE "move" then the school should start off with Howe kids and go from there. I think it would be to over whelming to let the current students from central park to stay as well as our students. Our students at Howe are really different from the current central park students and I have to say that our HOWE students are a bit more respectful and into their academics. Anyone else have an opinion on that? Well I hope I get a reply to my questions before Tuesday. Also I hope the HOWE school remains on a lottery? will this stay? thank you again
A concerned but welcomed to changes for the better parent.
Will our name still be HOWE international Magnet?

A: While rumors and stories do circulate, I challenge the conclusion you assert about our middle schools. Middle school students certainly do exhibit challenging behaviors all over the country, but the students in Schenectady should never be characterized as having "no morals" or uncaring. These descriptions are overgeneralized and harmful. I would certainly invite you to visit any of our middle schools and see for yourself instead of listening to and believing inaccurate rumors.

The magnet program would continue to be managed by a lottery as with any magnet program to fill open slots in particular grade levels. The name of the program would adopt the Central Park name as the name is dictated by the building and not the program itself.


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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:33 pm

Sandra wrote:
After reading Mickey's post, I wondered will the current Central Park students have to move out of the school they know and how will the school district overcome bringing the two groups together?

Can the post from Greer and responses be moved from the Human Cost of Cuts string to a link on this page since it addresses his or her fears of special ed students being integrated at Central?

A: We will allow current sixth and seventh grade students at Central Park to remain at that location through their graduation from eighth grade.


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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:35 pm

tdrparent wrote:
The FAQs characterize Spanish and Chinese instruction as "new," but I think Spanish has been taught at Howe for at least a decade. Regardless, knowing something of these languages will give kids incredible advantages in the future, and foreign language instruction really needs to start early. So, district decision-makers, please commit to retaining these programs. Thanks.

A: You are correct. Spanish has been taught for several years in the Howe International Magnet program and will continue. Chinese and Arabic language instruction are new to the district over the last two years.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:39 pm

Howemom wrote:
I am a Howe parent and I remember hearing about this proposal a few years ago. Parents were concerned about how the the magnet program and teachers would move. I am SO HAPPY to see that the proposal includes moving the teachers and magnet program!
I have to say that I am surprised at some of the negative posts on this thread. We all need to calm down and consider what makes a school: is it the walls and handrails and buses or is it the people and programs inside?
I have concerns about my younger kids mixing with older students, and wonder what time school will start. But I think we have to look at the opportunities being presented. We also have to put some trust into our administration. Our school district opened 3 new elementary schools last year- the administration knows exactly what elementary students need. K-8 is a proven successful program- not an experiment. Sure, we need to keep asking questions- but also must TRUST our administration - they are professionals and have expertise in areas like opening new schools and providing innovative programs.
The opportunities are endless- we would be moving to a spectacular location- next to Central Park- imagine how teachers can use that resource, the greenhouses, walking path, and tennis courts… We would have an opportunity to keep our school/parent community together until 8th grade, and our kids ‘ instruction would continue to revolve around international themes. An earlier post stated that if the new school became an IB school that it might be the only one in upstate NY. That should excite parents- not make them freak out!
I think we also have to be very careful about what we say about Central Park middle school and any other parents and students outside of Howe. Remember- as magnet school parents we are located all over the city- the students and parents you complain about may be your neighbors! My older kids went to Mont Pleasant middle school and it was wonderful. The postings about violence are simply not true. The school was calm, the kids were learning, and the Principal did not tolerate poor behavior. I challenge anyone to go visit MP or CP any time and you would be very impressed. It’s wrong to state that Central Park kids don’t care about learning like Howe kids. My friends whose kids went there were very concerned and involved with learning!
This discussion should not turn into accusations and labeling. It should explore the opportunities and lay out questions. I think it’s unfortunate that some Howe students found out about the proposal from teachers - that is not a role for teachers to take. I hope their actions weren’t meant as way to sabotage this process and cause turmoil with parents. If teachers have concerns I hope they will post them. Someone told me that teachers don't want to move their classrooms. I just don't believe it- the Howe teachers I know are way above that type of petty nonsense. Now the proposal is out there. We can read it and think about it and formulate questions. Let’s stay calm and be positive.

A: With these ideas come challenges which also present many opportunities to make our magnet program and district stronger and more effective in meeting the needs of all students. K-8 schools have been successful across the country and previously within our own district. I understand that the changes proposed are creating tension and nervousness among our parents and staff communities. This is natural and I believe we should continue to discuss these concerns. I look forward to answering your questions. That is the purpose of our meetings, this discussion board and our FAQ link on our district website.


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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:44 pm

greer wrote:
Central Park teachers were told there will be no grade 6 here- so will it be K-5 7/8?
Really to mix a K or 1st grade innocent with some of the chronic discipline issues at the middle school, makes not sense. The foul language alone would concern me for these little minds to hear.
CP is not at all designed for small bodies. How about the lack of parking and various bus issues.?

A: Central Park teachers were told that there would be no sixth grade feeder system left as all of the schools (Lincoln being the last) will house their own sixth grades next year. Therefore, there would be no sixth grade unless we make this move with Howe to create the K-8 school which again was a goal of the original strategic plan for the district.

The safety and behavior of our students are top priorities and would be carefully considered in the plan. Our goal is to improve and expand educational opportunities including the learning environment.

The capital improvement project planned for next summer at Central Park will address the facility concerns including adding a new playground.


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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:48 pm

tdrparent wrote:
Mr Ely - Could the forum at CPMS include building tours for Howe parents? I've never been inside that buidling. Thanks.

A: I am more than happy to ask the principal to arrange for tours. However, please remember that a capital improvement project is due to take place at Central Park this coming summer.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:49 pm

BChriss wrote:
lol! Dream come true for you ! Have you seen the bars on the windows? How there is no play ground and how there where 3 shootings in the same area as central park school? WOW!!! This is not my dream come true for my 4 year old and 9 year old. I live in the Howe school community .. I do not want my children bullied and intimadated!!! Well this is great about all the studies done but not one mentioned about how the children K-5 did !... But I am still reserching.. I love wasting my weekend on reserching this stuff and not being around my children! What is the alternative plan for when the K-5 children do not succed. Or there academics decline. While the 6-8 children are doing so well!

A: Bars on windows? I believe you are referring to the security shields that prevent the windows from being vandalized. They unfortunately are necessary but are not a reflection of the students in the school, or the school itself.

The program is designed to improve the opportunities we offer to all children.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:57 pm

teachermom wrote:
I had to write after reading the response on the forum stating that we need to trust our administration. I am sorry but after teaching for sixteen years, although not in Schenectady, I think putting blind trust in central administrators who have usually not taught in a classroom for years and are usually out of touch with the day to day struggles of teaching is a stretch at best. I see people write that this is a proven success. Unfortunately schools are known for latching onto the "hot" educational reform of the time. The research I have found is limited and still inconclusive on the long term effects of the K-8 model, so is this really a long term solution or a quick fix? Although you can find research which does support the idea that 6, 7 and 8th graders benefit from this model, what about our K-5 population? Plus that same research states that grade configuration is not the only factor that leads to improved performance. There are other critical factors that are important to consider. I do not understand the idea of taking Howe's success to prop up a struggling middle school and how that will help the primary students. I also have concerns about my child possibly riding a bus and sharing space within the school with students who are physically and emotionally more mature. The language and behavior of middle school students could be inappropriate for younger children to witness, and I know that first hand because I teach middle school. I am concerned that although administration states that this plan has been in the works for six years they have no concrete plans for how they plan on logistically carrying this all out. That is being reactive not proactive and does not leave me with confidence in the school districts leadership. Although the teaching staff is moving with the students, what about Mrs. Coffey, who is a solid instructional leader/principal? Reassigning her to another building would be a loss in this process. Is administration willing to put in the proper supports to make this work, such as the appropriate number of counselors, assistant principals, etc like the research suggests? I also would like to see the research the district is citing to support this change. Why is the meeting taking place after our Howe students were told the school was closing and then we received a notice stating no decisions had been made yet? Is this meeting just appeasement to the fact that a decision has already been made in reality? I think that instead of bulldozing this through we need to have several open discussion forums with central administration and the Board of Education members present. As taxpayers who support this district and parents of students who will be directly affected we should have the opportunity for our comments to be seriously considered in this decision making process. I think that administration assumed we would all blindly follow their vision in this less than transparent process. It says on the Q & A section of this forum posted by administration, supposedly on 29 of October, that a final decision has to be made by mid February, well then why were parents not notified several months ago and why were more meetings not scheduled earlier? I think there are too many serious questions and logistical decisions that still need to be discussed and made before closing the Howe Magnet School next year. I fully agree with BChriss comments.


A: The Q & A was posted Friday, January 23 (not October 29). I am not sure the idea of K-8 can be accurately described a "hot" educational reform. The K-8 model has been around for decades and the district reluctantly did away with this model previously due to some overcrowding issues. Six years ago the district, through strategic planning, made the exploration of this model a priority. We now can definitely accomplish this at King next year and with this initiative possibly expand the quality Howe program.


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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:59 pm

neverfaraway wrote:
I haven't been able to come up with any recent reports on benefits of K-8, except older ones. I was looking for recent ones from perhaps this past year, but haven't found any. But I did stumble across this article where it could raise concerns if younger students were dismissed at the same time as older students.
http://www.schenectady.k12.ny.us/news/Inthenews/schoolviolence.dailygazette.051808.pdf
I was also wondering would the 6th grade teachers already at Howe move to CPM too; as well as all the support staff and would there be two separate entrances, one for K-6 and one for 7-8th and two principals for each section, would the Howe principal and her assistant coach be the principal for K-6th at one section of the school, and the CPM principal and assistant principal for the 7th-8th section?

A: Unfortunately some of these personnel questions cannot be answered publicly right now due to some ongoing discussions about these issues and privacy considerations. The staff and administration of any building is responsible for determining where students enter the building and how they are arranged within the buildings. Keeping a defined structure within the building is very important within a K-8 setting and we certainly will ensure that all children are kept safe.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 10:03 pm

greer wrote:
I suggest that all taxpayers go visit Central Park on a school day. As a taxpayer you have a right to do this.
You will be shocked to hear the language and to see what goes on. Then decide if you want
young children there. What kind of children are attending that school?
My neighbor went last Wednesday to pick up her sick daughter and 2 administrators were
CARRYING a boy screaming obscenities down the hall. As she waited in guidance for the daughter- the same carried boy was heard kicking walls!! NICE I really want my 6 year old with that!

A:
I too encourage parents to visit Central Park or any other building in the district. Just make an appointment to tour with the principal beforehand as we will not permit people to wander around the building unescorted. This is a safety and security measure we instituted within our buildings a few years ago. Children do have bahavior issues in educational settings. This is a fact. It is no worse or better in Schenectady however I do believe our counselors, teachers, staff and administrators are very proactive in dealing with such behaviors.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Sun 25 Jan 2009, 10:45 pm

PMC wrote:
I am a parent of a child in kindergarten and a relatively new home owner/resident of Schenectady. So, unfortuately, I have not had the opportunity to participate in the dialogue for the past five years regarding k-8. I would like to know what the process is for actually approving yhr move of Howe to the Central Park School and converting it to K-8. Will it be voted on at the next school board meeting? Is there a required vote?

Frankly, from my research, K-8 may work, but the devil is in the details. Keeping the younger kids somewhat isolated from the older kids is essential. Would they be in different parts of the building? Is the building being specifically redesigned for the k-8 environment? Different lunch rooms, playgrounds, gyms, etc. Will there be assurances that the older kids have left the school ground by the time the younger kids leave school for the day? An 8th grader can say something that is casual to them, but could be tramatic to a 1st grader....what assurances do parents have that this will not happen? details, details, details...please!

Howe has a great group of teachers, admin staff and paras. Will this team remain in place? Will the class sizes still remain a maximum of 25 students? It is unfortunate that if this has been in discussion for five years...that it was not shared with us when we were deciding on whether we should join the Howe family. Now my child is going into first grade and we must consider pulling her out or keeping her in the Magnet school....it sure would be useful if we had the details to make an educated decision.


Regards,
PMC

A: As you point out the details are many and the considerations you ask about have been discussed. K-8 schools operate effectively in school districts all over the country and we will continue to develop these details as we move forward by working with administrators in some of those schools and districts.

The staff and administration transfers are contractual discussions. We would certainly like to keep as much of this learning community together as possible to give it the best chance of success as it expands. The school board will certainly discuss this at future board meetings and will be very interested in your comments and questions. The district is already planning for one K-8 setting at King Magnet School so this discussion will continue as we move forward with our plans for next year.
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PostSubject: Howe Closure   Mon 26 Jan 2009, 10:30 pm

I would like to thank the administrator for responding to my posting and for pointing out the error in the date I cited, but many of my questions and concerns were not addressed in any way. Although the K-8 model was popular in the earlier part of the century and many private and parochial schools kept the model all this time, public schools moved to a junior high model and then to a middle school model. It has just been since the late 1990's that some public school systems have adopted the K-8 model again. Although larger city school districts such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cincinnati have moved to the K-8 model, it does not necessarily mean it is right for Schenectady. Again, I acknowledge that the recent immediate research supports the idea that this model leads to improvement for the 6-8 graders but what about our K-5 population? I am still concerned that many of the logistics of this possible move have not been addressed. I am concerned for the primary grade students who will be exposed to the language and actions of a middle level population who is much more mature and is not always age appropriate. If this model is to succeed I am unsure how a district who will not be getting the level of funding from the state next year and is cutting a large amount of teaching faculty will be able to provide the staffing the research shows is necessary for this model to be effective, as well as the professional development and training the research also cites is needed for this model to be successful. I would also like to know when the decision was made for Howe to be sacrificed as the school that would merge with Central Park MS. What evaluation criteria were used to choose Howe instead of another elementary school? Bringing the successful "Howe model" to Central Park by closing Howe does not guarantee in the least that it will carry over into this new K-8 school, which is what I believe this is all about. Instead of merging the two schools in hopes that it will improve the 6-8 performance scores, instead utilize the best educational practices and lessons learned by the Howe teaching staff and the tactics, techniques, and procedures that makes the K-5 at Howe excel.
The administrator mentioned that this was a model already instituted in the district but overcrowding became a problem and it had to be abandoned. What are the future student population projections and how does that effect the equation in the future? Will the district find itself in the same situation in the future?
The most important point again that needs a direct response is how this K-8 model impacts the K-5 population and what specific statistical data does the district have to show this model helps students at the K-5 level as well. If the data does not support that the educational level of the K-5 students is at least sustained then why go forward with this? I look forward the meeting tomorrow night at Howe and the meeting next week at Central Park and hope the members of the Board of Education will be present as well.
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PostSubject: Please address Teachermom's questions   Tue 27 Jan 2009, 12:15 am

Teachermom, I agree with your statements 100 percent and am concerned that the Admin did not comment on the majority of your questions. Admin, please do so. Unless parents, teachers and staff are provided answers to the questions you and others have raised regarding logistics...we cannot have an open, intelligent dialog with the school district administrators. I hope we are provided these answers tomorrow. The district looks unprepared and unresponsive to parents if they cannot answer these simple questions, especially after studying the k-8 format since 2003.

If indeed they plan on renovating CP in anticipation of a k-8 format, wouldn't these logistical answers need to be answered now? I am sorry, but having smaller toilets is important, but does not answer my most pressing concerns. As stated in my previous post, I do not believe middle school students are bad; however, innocent banter among 13 year olds could have very dramatic consequences to a 5 year old. I do not believe all 7th and 8th graders can be role models...but some could be. It takes a special kid to be a role model to a youngster and with direct supervision by an adult/teacher. Given the budget cuts and suggested staff layoffs, will there be enough educators at CP to ensure this? Will these educators be given support and education in the k-8 process? The plan accounts for higher numbers of 7th and 8th graders the first two years, how will this be handled? Will additional staff be hired to handle the increase student population and laid off once the numbers are reduced? What criteria was used to select Howe and not another grade school? At this point, I am just repeating what others have said, but I will keep asking until I hear some answers.

As a former teacher in a k-12 program overseas, it really did work, but we as educators were very dilegent in keeping different houses for the k-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grades.

My wife and I were delighted when we had the opportunity to send our daughter to Howe because of the language programs and celebration of diversity. I hope this is expanded and not eliminated if the school is moved.

Additionally, the Admin has consistently referenced success stories regarding the k-8, please provide links to the audits/documents that were used to support these statements as it pertains to the k-5 population. As stated, I really want to educate myself on the k-8 format but have not been able to find objective audits of other programs online. Please help me out. The more transparent the district is throughout this proces, the better it will be for all of us to understand it. I also hope the entire school board will be present tomorrow to hear these concerns and provide answers directly (rain, shine or snow).

Thank you.

PMC
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PostSubject: Wait 1 year   Tue 27 Jan 2009, 8:02 am

One option that should be on the table is wait a year to move the Howe kids to Central Park and let the big class of 234 Central Park kids graduate first. If the move happens in 2009-2010, more than half the student population at Central Park would be in highest grade. If we waited until 2010-2011, the 8th grade would still be larger than the other grades, but to a much smaller degree.

The answers to the questions about buses, school hours, separate entrances, separation within the building etc. absolutely HAVE to be provided before Howe parents will be comfortable. At least for the first year, the response that "the details of how a K-8 building is managed are left to the staff and administration of that building" is not sufficient. The staff and administration will not have experience managing a K-8 building at that point. At least lay out the options that are available to staff and administration given the physical layout of the building.

Again, thanks for the opportunity to be heard and answered that this forum presents.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Tue 27 Jan 2009, 2:45 pm

tdrparent wrote:
One option that should be on the table is wait a year to move the Howe kids to Central Park and let the big class of 234 Central Park kids graduate first. If the move happens in 2009-2010, more than half the student population at Central Park would be in highest grade. If we waited until 2010-2011, the 8th grade would still be larger than the other grades, but to a much smaller degree.

I agree with this idea. It really makes sense to get the bulk of the middle schoolers out of Central Park before this change takes place.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Tue 27 Jan 2009, 2:56 pm

teachermom wrote:
I would like to thank the administrator for responding to my posting and for pointing out the error in the date I cited, but many of my questions and concerns were not addressed in any way. Although the K-8 model was popular in the earlier part of the century and many private and parochial schools kept the model all this time, public schools moved to a junior high model and then to a middle school model. It has just been since the late 1990's that some public school systems have adopted the K-8 model again. Although larger city school districts such as Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cincinnati have moved to the K-8 model, it does not necessarily mean it is right for Schenectady. Again, I acknowledge that the recent immediate research supports the idea that this model leads to improvement for the 6-8 graders but what about our K-5 population? I am still concerned that many of the logistics of this possible move have not been addressed. I am concerned for the primary grade students who will be exposed to the language and actions of a middle level population who is much more mature and is not always age appropriate. If this model is to succeed I am unsure how a district who will not be getting the level of funding from the state next year and is cutting a large amount of teaching faculty will be able to provide the staffing the research shows is necessary for this model to be effective, as well as the professional development and training the research also cites is needed for this model to be successful. I would also like to know when the decision was made for Howe to be sacrificed as the school that would merge with Central Park MS. What evaluation criteria were used to choose Howe instead of another elementary school? Bringing the successful "Howe model" to Central Park by closing Howe does not guarantee in the least that it will carry over into this new K-8 school, which is what I believe this is all about. Instead of merging the two schools in hopes that it will improve the 6-8 performance scores, instead utilize the best educational practices and lessons learned by the Howe teaching staff and the tactics, techniques, and procedures that makes the K-5 at Howe excel.
The administrator mentioned that this was a model already instituted in the district but overcrowding became a problem and it had to be abandoned. What are the future student population projections and how does that effect the equation in the future? Will the district find itself in the same situation in the future?
The most important point again that needs a direct response is how this K-8 model impacts the K-5 population and what specific statistical data does the district have to show this model helps students at the K-5 level as well. If the data does not support that the educational level of the K-5 students is at least sustained then why go forward with this? I look forward the meeting tomorrow night at Howe and the meeting next week at Central Park and hope the members of the Board of Education will be present as well.

A: First, let me point out that this proposal is just that, a proposal for discussion. A decision has not been made to make this move. However, I am presenting a proposal that I believe is best for the students and the school district next year and over time.

The K-8 model was abandoned in most districts for the exact same reason it was abandoned in Schenectady. Space was the main issue. At that time and even still today, there is not substantial research to support a middle school model. Since that time, the results of student achievement in middle schools has been predominantly abysmal across the country. Again, a trend we too have also noticed in Schenectady.

As you point out, the research completed over the last ten years is not conclusive, however it certainly does show improved student achievement for middle school age students. It also highlights the improved behavior trends among students in a K-8 setting.

Nearly all the research indicates there is a lack of any affect on the achievement of elementary age children. I would surmise that this is due to the self-contained nature of elementary classrooms. However, there is some body of literature that points out the positive effect on all students when older children are placed in mentoring roles within a K-8 setting, helping younger children through school by reading to them, acting in some “big brother/big sister” capacity and other such controlled mentoring programs. This is an area we will explore as time goes on. As the school community develops the framework these interactions can take place. This would most likely not begin in the first year or two of such a new venture as we would be bringing two school communities together.

Howe and King were selected because of their nature as magnet school options. As magnet schools, the district can exert control over the growth of the school populations and parents are never forced into putting their child or keeping their child in magnet schools. I take exception to the phrase “Howe to be sacrificed” as I view this as a tremendous opportunity for a successful magnet program to expand on its theme through the middle years for students an prepare them to be successful in the larger community of Schenectady High School.

Certainly we believe and have for several years that the development and implementation of this K-8 option will help students to be academically and socially more successful. If we did not believe that this would be the result, the goal would not have been established for the district in the strategic plan.
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PMC



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PostSubject: Independent Research   Tue 27 Jan 2009, 7:00 pm

As requested before, please provide me with the above-mentioned research. I would like to find some independent audits or analysis of the k-8 programs that have been implemented throughout the country. Audits or research which discuss pros and cons of the k-8 program would be nice. I have found some information, but I don't know if this is the research that Admin keeps referencing. I would especially like to see all the reports either reviewed by the Board or prepared by the Board when evaluating the k-8 system. I would be happy to file a FOIL request for this information if that is required. Please advise.
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PostSubject: K-8 Proposal   Wed 28 Jan 2009, 8:08 am

I was one of a number of parents who attended the meeting last night at Howe. I am also one of the parents who is in favor of this move. I think that the way all middle schools are set up in general does not work. Not just in Schenectady, but all school districts. I feel that keeping the children in a smaller setting and the smaller classes would be a huge benefit. Not to mention keeping these children with teachers, staff who know them. There is something comforting in knowing that the teacher/staff who realized that a child was struggling with something ( whether academically or behavior) is going to be there when they overcome it. I understand the concerns of the smaller children being with the older students but I think that can be worked out. My main issue is with the the staff at Howe- Mrs. Coffey, her support staff and the teachers. My children have received a wonderful nuturing education from these people and this is what makes Howe -"Howe", Why did we not hear from any of them last night on their thoughts professionally and personnaly? I was under the impression that for the most part they were in agreement with this idea but we did not hear from them as to why or why not this is either a good or bad decision. I certainly listen to them in regards to my children's everyday educational needs I feel as though I need to hear from them now. The transisiton of all of the teachers and staff who want to go is paramount in making this work. The Howe School that we know now would not be the same without Mrs. Coffey and the entire staff. I have huge concerns in regards to the 6th grade teachers. I can only speak about Mr. Sementilli, and I can't imagine that a school district can afford to let a teacher of his caliber go!
I thank the district in realizing that something needs to be done at the Middle School level and hopefully it can be worked out.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Wed 28 Jan 2009, 9:56 am

I did not read every response here. What stands out in my mind are the comments about how this is the latest and greatest thing in education (k-8th). Isn't that what was said about placing 6th graders with the 7th and 8th graders? Wasn't that the latest and greatest thing in education? Why has that changed?
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PostSubject: K-8 Proposal   Wed 28 Jan 2009, 11:28 am

I attended last night's meeting, and found it to be informative, yet annoying. I understand the concerns of many of the parents, but at some point people truly need to open their ears and understand that the HOWE program is simply being transplanted into another building-it is NOT being disessembled, it is being explanded, which in the long run will only benefit our kids!! I heard a lot of talk about the intermingling of the older and younger children, and my answer to that would be to look at how it is handled now-the older and younger kids are kept seperate now, why would that change?? The only chance the kids might have is on the buses, which does concern me, as I had a problem last year with an older child and my five year old. Either different routes or monitors need to be included on each bus run.

This can only benefit our kids to be able to be amoungst their peers for two more years. There is no doubt it may be a bit hard for the first year or two, but then it should be smooth sailing. Our kids are they way they are, good or bad because of the kind of parents we are. Just my thoughts...I'm excited for this proposal and hope that it does come to pass. Change is scary, but it may end up being for the better.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Wed 28 Jan 2009, 12:08 pm

PMC wrote:
As requested before, please provide me with the above-mentioned research. I would like to find some independent audits or analysis of the k-8 programs that have been implemented throughout the country. Audits or research which discuss pros and cons of the k-8 program would be nice. I have found some information, but I don't know if this is the research that Admin keeps referencing. I would especially like to see all the reports either reviewed by the Board or prepared by the Board when evaluating the k-8 system. I would be happy to file a FOIL request for this information if that is required. Please advise.

A: The research and literature used several years ago during the strategic planning development is in a binder here in my office and includes several hundred pages. I invite you to come in if you would like to review this research and literature. There is extensive and more recent literature and research on this topic available online. Use any search engine and type in “K-8 schools research” or some other similar descriptive search parameter.

Research and literature certainly can be found to support all sides of any issue. The common pro indications are:

  • increased academic achievement for the sixth through eighth grade students
  • improved student behavior
  • improved family connection to school due to the stability of a K-8 setting.

The common arguments against the K-8 setting are centered around the valid concern of keeping a level of separation between the early childhood students and the adolescent children.

There isn’t much in the literature or research about any effect on the academic achievement of elementary children in a K-8 setting.

I suspect there are two reasons for this. First, most of the K-8 discussion is focused on the positive effect the setting has on the middle level children due to the failure of the middle school model around the country. Second, since in a K-8 setting the elementary children are still in self-contained classrooms exactly as they are in any elementary building, the effect is negligible.

I do believe that the value of having secondary level teachers who specialize in their particular area of expertise in the curriculum meeting with and sharing their knowledge with elementary teachers in the same building is a tremendous opportunity to improve instruction. Likewise, such dialogue will help the traditionally subject-centered secondary teachers become more student focused and ultimately be beneficial to all staff and students in the K-8 setting.
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PostSubject: Howe teachers   Wed 28 Jan 2009, 1:08 pm

What will happen to the 2 6th grade teachers at Howe if the school is "transplanted' to CP?
There are 3 6th grade teachers at CP where do they go?
I still have concerns for a 5 year old in a building with 12/13 year olds. If there is a problem child of 12 what will they do to a young child who is trusting and helpless?
Money can not be the only motivation to re-do the district. Howe is a great school.
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PostSubject: Re: Proposed Changes to Howe Magnet School   Wed 28 Jan 2009, 3:41 pm

I am also concerned about the 6th grade teachers. The two current Howe teachers are doing a fantastic job with our children. I'm sure the CP 6th grade teachers also do a great job. My concern is that since the Howe teachers are already part of the program and they should be the 6th grade teachers at CP if (when) this move takes place. It would be unfair to make the CP 6th grade teachers learn the "Howe" way of doing things. I work in another school district and no teacher is guaranteed her/his spot in a building. The logical move is to have Mr. Sementilli and Mrs. Zadoorian move to CP with the other teachers.
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