Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Middle school schedule discussed in parent meetings

Originally published here

Wednesday January 14, 2015 11:03 AM

Parents braved the cold weather recently to attend a meeting in Karrer Middle School to discuss possible changes to the Dublin middle school schedule.

Dustin Miller, the Dublin City School District's director of secondary education, walked parents through what the Middle School Schedule Task Force has been working on and what feedback from the community the task force has been receiving.

Mark Mousa, Karrer principal, said the task force has been "working together with other schools from the region to see what they are doing and what is working for them."

The task force, which is made up of 13 teachers, four principals and two central office administrators, is not limiting research to only Ohio, Miller said. They are traveling to study some of the nation's top suburban districts in Chicago and Minneapolis.

The schedule is being examined because Dublin Superintendent Todd Hoadley said he heard repeatedly from parents that they were concerned, the district now has two full school years of data to examine and the district promised to re-evaluate the schedule when the previous changes were made.

Mousa said making changes to the middle school schedule was comparable to "repairing an airplane while it's flying" because the effects of the changes can only be fully understood years later.

No additional staffing is expected to be needed and Miller said task force members are not looking to limit the number of courses being offered.

Middle school teachers filled out a brief survey in the fall and those results showed they are concerned students do not have science and social studies every day, that courses are often pitted against each other and that they want more time to meet with students.

The task force listened to student feedback, which included comments such as wanting a longer lunch time, study center every day, more choices for related arts, science and social studies every day and shorter class times.

Parent feedback revealed they like the current start and stop times, see the value in offering a study center, think blocks are too long for students, want more choices for related arts and want science and social studies classes every day.

The next steps for the task force include partnering with similar districts, analyzing feedback and data and then preparing a recommendation to Kim Miller, Dublin's chief academic officer.

Sara Hallermann, a parent, voiced concerns at the meeting about students having a schedule that was too fragmented and could hinder deeper learning.

Miller agreed teachers are not able to "dig deep" within 50 minutes so the district is working to find a "happy medium" concerning class times.

Other parents said they were annoyed some of the language arts class time was being used for 20 minutes of silent reading.

Mousa clarified that silent reading is less regimented and while students are reading, teachers use that time to meet individually with students.

Brian Niekamp, parent of a seventh-grader and a fourth-grader and an Upper Arlington teacher, said he was very impressed with the meeting.

"I heard the right talk from the administrators," Niekamp said. "They seem to have the middle school students at heart and are not just focused on the test scores."

Blair Mallott, a task force member and an intervention specialist at Davis Middle School, said she thought the cold weather might have had an impact on attendance.

"I'm looking forward to the other meetings at the middle schools," she said. "There is a lot of good information here."

Future middle school schedule community meetings are planned for 7 p.m. at Davis Middle School tonight, Thursday, Jan. 15, Sells Middle School Tuesday, Jan. 20, and Grizzell Middle School Wednesday, Jan. 21.