The School Board Policy Committee will be voting on implementing a literacy committee this Tuesday. Please support all readers in T/E by sending a quick note of support to our school board before the Policy Committee meeting on 10/1 at 7:00 pm. Also, if you can, please attend the meeting.
The board believes this is a SMALL issue and that most community members are not concerned. If we do not convene in front of the board and send letters of support, they will not implement a literacy committee.
The committee was proposed by Kate Murphy. It is identical in scope and composition to the existing Diversity Committee. The goals of the committee are to educate parents, support teachers and administrators, agree to the terms being used in the literacy discussion and inform the taxpayer.
Learning to read to the best of your potential should be the right of all students in our country. Most certainly, in one of the highest performing districts in the state, learning to read to the best of your potential should be a given. Ask any parent who looked up the school district data before they moved to T/E. We are certain none of them would have said “It’s okay if smart Johnny learns to read just a little.” Learning to read is the equity issue of our time!
By Kate Mayer
As I sit here on a Sunday night, watching my middle schoolers independently working on their homework, I think back to the days when they were in elementary school. I think back to the time when I was not sure if my gifted little boys would be able to read their middle school textbooks. Now, as I hear them bantering about the books they are reading together (Artemis Fowl and Ready Player One) and grumbling about the tedium of school, I realize how lucky our family is to have discovered early, their struggles with learning to read; how lucky we were to understand the necessity of explicit, systematic instruction; how lucky we were to find the right tutors, how lucky we were to have a literacy rich home and how lucky we were to understand the complexities of navigating public school system supports.
I realize the luck our family experienced in our literacy journey is not the same for all families in TESD as I think back, more recently, to the countless district meetings we attended with parents of struggling readers (many, many hours), to the innumerable phone calls, emails and coffee sessions we hosted with parents (dozens of parents) and to the numerous School Board Meetings we attended (where we had to repeatedly advocate for students and teachers to receive instruction in evidence based reading practices).
Reflecting on these experiences, I am certain – until we all sit down together, parents, teachers, administrators, board members and STUDENTS, we will not serve all of our students; we will not honestly reflect on the impact we have on our children’s literacy journey and we will not continue to improve on the “top notch” education in TESD.
Today, I want to shout out a thank you to all of the parents, community members, educators and board members who support a district literacy committee and I want to implore those of you who do not to reconsider. We cannot continue to espouse to be the number one district in the state while we do not commit to doing our BEST for all readers. Below are some reasons why I and the members of Everyone Reads T/E know a collaborative literacy committee is essential to improving our already successful district. Working together and not alone is essential.
UNTIL EVERY READER CAN READ TO THE BEST OF THEIR POTENTIAL IN THE BEST DISTRICT
· The current system of engaging all community stakeholders is not effective for several reasons:
Communication has consistently gone one way. Administration has produced a steady stream of reports but not responded to the board or community requests for more information. They go through the motions of inviting community input. At school board meetings, for instance, they’ll make a show of paying attention while citizens air their concerns, a few minutes at a time but they do not follow up with requested information or meaningful responses.
When people speak up at board meetings there is a tendency for the board and administrators to vilify the messengers:
By keeping all stakeholders separate, groups become adversaries with administrators pitting stakeholders against one another, e.g. teachers and parents. No meaningful discussion ensues.
· We have a vast majority of our students performing at proficiency or above in English Language Arts on state assessments – 88.2% our growth scores (PVAAS) in English Language Arts are tied for 6th from the bottom out of 638 districts in the state.
We have 20% of our students in reading support in our high achieving district. These numbers reflect most low performing districts.
Parents need help! They often trust the district to do what is best but find themselves funding tutors, advocates and summer programs to supplement reading instruction.
Hundreds of thousands of $’s are being paid out by TESD in Educational Services Agreements (ESA’s) for students to attend private schools who use evidence based literacy practices – Over $350,000 in receipts for the 2018-2019 school year.
Although the district has reported implementing evidence based practices, all practices implemented are not reflective of the prescribed practices. They are a hybrid and are missing the most important components. Most importantly, data is not used and shared appropriately. OR data is shared in a confusing way that makes it hard for parents to participate in the process.
We have been repeatedly cited for disproportionality – overrepresentation of minority students in special education. As a result, corrective actions to address this were issued. The most recent citation was issued for last school year. One of the previous corrective actions was to implement MTSS, an evidence based system of intervention. Instead of implementing per the research, we did it a “better” way and continue to over identify kids for special education.
Parent participation in school decision making has research backing it. It is even mandated in federal law including the ESSA. We are a Title 1 district and are held accountable to this law. We comply with this law pushing for collaboration between schools and parents by hosting one meeting a year where feedback from parents is not solicited.
School Board Policy Committee Meeting Notes From Attendee
Policy Committee Chair Kate Murphy asked TE’s solicitor, Ken Roos, to draft a policy and regulations for a Literacy Committee. The policy and regulations will be identical to those of the District’s Diversity Committee. There was discussion by Board members and Dr. Gusick, and then the public commented. Kate Murphy said some of the goals of the committee would be: to educate parents, to present good works that our teachers are doing, to agree to terms like the science of reading and data, to give an opportunity to administration to present their assessments and to engage with taxpayers after they’ve seen TE in The Inquirer. Two-way communication would be improved. Board members Ed Sweeney and Tina Whitlow said clearly that they would support a Literacy Committee. Tina asked how the Committee would measure success. Kate Murphy responded that there would be an objective for each meeting, a clear assessment plan, agreeing on terms, and possibly measuring attendance at forums for parents. Mary Garrett Iten thanked Kate for all of her work and liked the idea of defining terms. She also asked if the Committee would engage with experts? Todd Kantorczyk seemed uncomfortable with the Committee being limited to only literacy and said it should include other educational topics. Or, if it was just a Literacy Committee, it should only exist for 1 year. Roberta Hotinski and Michele Burger agreed with Todd and said the committee should be broader. Scott Dorsey wanted to hear directly from the teachers/TEA. Kyle Boyer thought that the Diversity Committee, while nice, doesn’t have a lot of teeth. He also did not agree that a literacy committee was warranted. Dr. Gusick was not supportive of a literacy committee. Public comments were supportive of a Literacy committee. Further discussion and a vote by the Policy Committee will occur at the next meeting on October 1st at 7pm at TEAO.