Thursday, September 11, 2014

Moderately Spicy Wisdom - Part Two

I tracked Slats down around noon today.  He huffed that I shouldn’t have interrupted his meditation session.  I noted that he was lounging about in a booth, at Bonefish Grill off of Ritchie Highway, scarfing down Bang Bang shrimp. 

“Those activities are not mutually exclusive,” he remarked.

I brushed aside his pithy declaration while he handed me the lunch bill. Sighing audibly but apparently not harshing his crustacean-augmented mellow, I asked if he read my post from yesterday.  He nodded.

“Too long, right?  Too much detail for the format?” I inquired.

“Just give ‘em the feel of the room,” he replied.  “Fuck, they never give you enough napkins, do they?”

Both are solid observations.

So with that in mind, I will do the best I can in this, Part Two, featuring the first three questions from the audience.

1) Promoting school safety.

Vaillancourt was up first and had the most evocative response, calling for schools to follow the “El Al” model (engage in “profiling,” presumably of students or others associated with the school who might be showing warning signs of being a threat to others or themselves). 

Altwerger centered her comments on the movement of students between the portables and the main buildings. 

Dyer concentrated on protecting against suicides.

French briefly discussed mental health, positive intervention strategies and “civility policing.”

Furman promoted the idea of a card access system for students, teachers and administrators as well as stepped-up anti-bullying efforts.

O’Connor said that she was not opposed to metal detectors in the schools, but that further research should be conducted (she called for additional studies more than once over the course of the evening).

Spartan Considerations thoughts:

Furman had his best moment of the night on this point.  He was both knowledgeable and confident in his response. 

Given credit where it is due, Dyer’s answer started out heart-felt and fluent.  But then he made a joke about how some folks like to “protect against asteroids” instead of focusing on more likely risks.  Why that moment for a comment like that?  It’s like he decorated a Christmas tree beautifully and, as a final touch, put a roll of toilet paper where the star should be. 

French’s reply was a little thin, felt a bit soft, for someone with her years on the Board.  She could have articulated some concrete solutions here.

2) Vision 2018: Where is the schedule? Where are the milestones?  

This is where some under-stated fireworks occurred.  The first two to respond to this question – Altwerger and Dyer – both agreed that it was a good vision but was light on specificity/progress.  Both thought that the Vision was being “sidetracked” (Altwerger) or “diverted” (Dyer) by issues pertaining to Common Core.

And then French spoke, holding up what she noted was a progress report issued by Superintendent Foose’s office.  She stated that the report contained a “tremendous amount of data” (presumably regarding the schedule and milestones) and that “implementation is underway.”  Giles, from the audience, also chimed in with a remark to the effect of “We have a date/We have dates.”

Furman commented that he was “glad we have this,” in a way that indicated that he was not aware of the public availability of the data that is said to be in the report.  He said there needs to be an implementation plan with hard deadlines, but there should be “flexibility” when needed to help meet the goals.

O’Connor re-iterated that she would be a full-time Board Member and that she would be going to the schools, presumably to check on the implantation of the Vision 2018 strategic plan.

Vaillancourt, in a not-so-veiled shot, wryly noted that, “we are good at coming up with the right words, but I want to put them into action.”  Zing.

Spartan Considerations thoughts:

This was fascinating.  The original question seemed simple enough, is there an on-track implementation schedule with specific milestones or not?  I deem it likely that every candidate on the stage performed their due diligence and studied up on Vision 2018, yet we appear to have a significant information gap.  Some believe there is forward movement and that the data exists and is publically available, while others do not believe that to be the case.  There should be a clear-cut answer here.  Who is wrong or misinformed? Is someone over-stating their position or willfully down-playing the amount of information that is available/progress made?     

3) Dual enrollment/remediation/Common Core-PARCC longitudinal tracking

So a heavy in the MD higher-education space came in to ask about the connection between K – 12 and collegiate performance.

Everyone said favorable things about dual enrollment.  There were no significant points of differentiation there. 

Dr. Freeman Hrabowski’s name was evoked by two of the candidates (French and Furman).  The former discussed his name in connection with UMBC scholarships for Howard County high school graduates, the latter in a response that focused on finding ways to help students bridge the gap (transition to college successfully? My notes are difficult to decipher here).

The rest of the conversation generally evolved (or descended) into a positioning exercise on Common Core, with Dyer and Altwerger stating their concerns:

Dyer: “fancy, expensive Common Core testing”

Altwerger: “I believe in high expectations,” but different learners learn at different rates, CC is “inflexible” and there needs to be a “local set of standards so teachers can meet the needs of the students they teach.”

French supports Common Core, believing it will help eliminate “inequities” in achievement.

O’Connor stated that she liked that Common Core was “trying to make it an even playing field” but also thinks that “more studies are needed.”

Spartan Considerations thoughts:

Your thoughts on who fared best on this multi-part question probably have more to do with your perspective on Common Core than anything else.  From a sheer communications perspective, Vaillancourt got a bit tangled up in her comments on remediation but no one tanked the question.

Well, it was shorter than Part One.  The forum was quite informative. 

Stay tuned, as more will follow.

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