October Pupil Services Meeting:
Pupil Services begins with an informative presentation from Mr. Scott Van Vooren from the Transformational Education Academy (TEA). The Lincoln Center, an alternative education provider in partnership with WCASD, runs the TEA, which has a beautiful home in the Charles A. Melton Arts & Education Center on East Miner Street.
What is transformational education? From the Lincoln Center website:
“Transformational Education (Trans Ed) is an educational approach focused on the personal growth and development of the whole person towards their becoming a critically thinking individual, empowered with the values and skills essential for successful living and participation in family and community life… one filled with caring, contribution, and commitment... The Trans Ed curriculum is student-centered, wherein teachers and counselors act as facilitators in creating self-paced, experiential lessons designed to appeal to the multiple intelligences and diverse learning styles of students.”
Mr. Van Vooren discusses the need for multiple certification of staff members to deal with the “multiple intelligences and diverse learning styles of students” and also the importance of the staff working together on a daily basis. All in attendance are provided with the TEA@WC (Trans Ed Academy at West Chester) September 2012 Comprehensive Report.
Mrs. Snook cites a phrase from the report: “TLC’s wisdom principles incorporate the personal values of caring, contribution, and commitment, the life skills of vision, courage and will and the growth processes of struggle, transformation and enlightenment” , and questions “what is enlightenment?” Mr. Van Vooren explains that many TEA students have never had a healthy relationship or home experience that many in WCASD take for granted. Their “norm” may indeed be “struggle “, which is transformed through the educational process and ideally ends in enlightenment.
There are questions about expenses and enrollment from Dr. Pimley. Mr. Van Vooren defers to Dr. Ranieri for expenses: between $350-400,000.00 is spent per year on the program and the program attempts to “max out” at 25 students, but has 32 students “throughout the year”.
Mrs. Tiernan interjects with a short history of alternative education in the District: prior to the Trans Ed Academy, alternative education students were sent to different locations. In contracting with the Lincoln Center and utilizing space at the Melton Center, our students have a home in their district community. Mrs. Tiernan admits it is a difficult concept to fathom…until one actually visits. We are told the Board is planning a visit to TEA@WC on October 24. We wish the Board a healthy journey to “enlightenment” at TEA and thank the TEA staff for their continued commitment and passion.
Meeting ends with a brief discussion of previously introduced Board Goals*. Going forward, it is hoped that all agenda items will “fit” within Board goals.
The entire meeting was devoted to recent Student Achievement Reports, a subject we have all been inundated with in the past weeks. District parents received both a detailed email and lengthy automated phone call on the subject, illuminating both District accomplishments and areas of need. At the Education meeting, the reports were presented in a creative “gallery walk” style, and most were grateful for this detailed and time-efficient delivery method. Meeting attendees were broken into groups and travelled to 4 separate areas to hear reports from supervisors in those areas: Math from Ian Kerr , English Language Arts from Susan Elliott, Special Education by Dr. Ranieri and Lisa Phifer, and Science from Paul Joyce. Before our stroll, Dr. Bertrando supplied paper and encouraged all to submit questions which will be used to develop an achievement FAQ section on District website.
On the subject of achievement,approximately 140 people attended a screening of the film “Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture” on October 11 at East High School. The film was co-sponsored by the WCASD Parent Teacher Organization Council and West Chester Communities That Care, and is an effective catalyst for eliciting community response to the sometimes negative impact of our “culture of achievement”. The film was highly advertised and Dr. Scanlon respectfully "plugged" the screening at September's Board meeting, yet only one Board member was in attendance. The documentary presents testimony from educators, parents, education experts, and students who depict “an education system in which cheating has become commonplace; students have become disengaged; stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant; and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired”.
The discussion panel included our WCASD superintendent, a district athletic director, 2 district guidance counselors, a student representative, and a private practice counselor. Public comment was overwhelmingly positive and conclusive: we are all responsible for this culture and can do our part to change it. A parent/coach commented that he needed to think, on a daily basis, how he portrays himself to his children, questioning if he is guilty of exemplifying the negative side of our American achievement culture. Nearly everyone in attendance could relate to the parent who told the story of her 4 year old begging her to “get off the ‘puter, Mom”. A mother/teacher emotionally shared her “guilt” in succumbing to behaviors conveyed in the film with her older children and told the audience that it may not be “too late” for the rest of us.
This was my second viewing of the film. In both instances, the epiphanies shared by most in attendance are beyond description: the self-realization of the culture that we, on a daily basis, contribute to and complain about, yet rarely think about stopping, and when/if we do, feel powerless to do so. However, what was unanimous in West Chester, and very different from my first experience seeing the film, was the realization that we, as a community, can and must do something. In the end, the evening was the advent of what will hopefully become an ongoing dialogue between all responsible adults involved in the education, guidance and health of our children.
Nationally, there are numerous grassroots organizations affecting positive change to America’s “achievement culture”. So, as we wait for West Chester to mobilize and rise to the challenge of truly transforming our educational system, please read up.
The National Center for Fair and Open Testing is a superb resource with numerous easy to understand “fact sheets”. The Center reminds us that the “same old firms”, such as Pearson, Educational Testing Service and CTB/McGraw-Hill, produce the “new” common core tests. United Opt Out also “follows the money” to see exactly who benefits most from the standardized testing of our children.
Did you know it is your constitutional right to opt out of standardized testing?
In Texas, more than 360 school boards have successfully passed high-stakes testing resolutions.
Since June, more than 17,000 people have petitioned the National PTA to advocate for healthy homework guidelines.
On October 17, join the Campaign for Our Public Schools, which is asking everyone who cares about public education - students, parents, teachers, principals, school board members, and concerned citizens – to write to the President and tell him what needs to change in his education policies. Click for sample letters. You can mail copies of your letters to The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 20500 or send them by email.
On October 22, attend the WCASD Board meeting, 7:30 PM at Stetson Middle School and keep the conversation to "end the race" going.
The greatest happiness is to transform one’s feelings into action. Madame de Stael
*Of interest, the aforementioned Board Goals section on Student Achievement:
Goal: The number of students taking and passing an AP course will increase by 2%
Assessment: The number of students taking an AP course will increase from 1179 to 1200.
Goal: The number of students participating in an activity will remain at or near 2011/12 levels.Assessment: The board will establish a baseline for participation.
Goal: The number of students scoring advanced on PSSA will result in WCASD ranking in the top 10% state-wide in terms of percentage of students scoring advanced.Assessment:WCASD will rank in top 10% in state on Advanced Scores.
Goal: The District will establish a relationship with the nation’s top universities.Assessment: A baseline data report will be made tracking what colleges students are applying and where they are being accepted. Develop a survey for recent graduates.