The Vanguard will be publishing the comments of each of the five school board members on the AIM program. We began with the comments of Susan Lovenburg on Sunday and Barbara Archer on Monday. Yesterday we covered what Madhavi Sunder said. Below is a video clip from Tom Adams’ comments.
First of all, I want to go back and just commend the staff once again for doing a report of the highest quality. If there’s differences (it’s) in terms of maybe some of the proposals you would like to see… but I don’t think we can demean the report itself. It was actually done very well, it’s well researched. It’s, I think, very good.
You’ve kind of taken your licks tonight on certain things, but I do want you to walk away tonight knowing that you have my ultimate respect for putting a report together of such high quality and I think you should be proud of it.
I also want to just talk about a concept that was briefly mentioned tonight – universal design for learning. In the debates we said, what’s your educational philosophy and how’s that going to shape your decisions? I said it right then, I said it’s universal design for learning in that we have to be prepared to serve all kids and all ways. And that’s still what I think.
So that doesn’t mean that we do something at the expense of one group over another or pit groups against one another. I think it’s key that we have to have in mind a diverse classroom, we have to have in mind diverse programs and we have to have in mind a teaching strategy that can address the needs of all students in terms of where they are and where they need to go.
And when people say well it can’t be done, I always think of the quote, one quote, it said, “Fight for limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.” And I’m not going to limit myself in the need to address kids, I think we can’t be doing that.
And differentiation is a good a strategy – it’s not the only one. I think if we’re going really take serious[ly] this charge of universal design for learning, that’s one of those tools we’re going to need. And it’s not unique to one program or another. It’s needed in all of them. And you can see that it’s being used in all of them. So let’s not make that the enemy of any program or instructing any of our students.
In terms of the leadership team I just want to say, I think it’s very wise…to leave testing decisions and identification issues to one person is a mistake. In accounting you have this concept of controls in the sense that when something is put down on paper and recorded as a transaction there’s always someone else who checks it out.
That’s really what you’re doing in a testing situation – you are creating controls, checks and balances so it’s not down to one person – having four people involved is going to make sure that you have the most consistent and clear identification of students. I think that’s one of the best parts of it as well as the fact that you’ve identified a battery of assessments that can be used based upon the student need and pre-identification.
I think in terms of private testing, we have to talk carefully about that for the simple reason, what I didn’t like was many people assumed that students who are in the current program via private testing are somehow not qualified. I don’t think we really meant to insult those students in that way – I think what the end of private testing means is that we are going to improve our district testing to the point that it will work well for all students.
So let’s not assume just because we have a bunch of students identified through private testing that somehow they’re not qualified to be in that program. Or that the end of private testing will necessarily decrease the number of student identification.
What I really was concerned about with the proposal is going up to 98 – for the simple reason that as one of our commentators said, there’s this issue of equity if the previous year it was 96 and now you’re going to raise it to 98 without the hope, then I have to be concerned about that. What’s the alternative and maybe you can come back and explain to me about how some of those concerns about equity are being addressed.
Just remember, we’re here to develop all students and this is key: we want every kid who walks through that door, we want to be able to say I want to help you learn. I want you to find your passion and I want to help that. So maybe it doesn’t occur in a third grade test, that identification of it. Maybe it doesn’t occur in elementary or middle school, maybe it takes all the way to a point where they take a class in high school or they join a club like robotics – but the thing is, we’re not going to give up on them and I’m not going to give up on any student just because that was the year they didn’t do well on some test of identification.
I’m into making sure that we’re going to work with them all the way through and we’re going to find something that makes them want to learn.
In the end I just want to say, this is the first time we’ve released this proposal, we have to actually begin a new conversation about this proposal. We have to have situations that are less structured and more conversational. Whenever at the state level we begin curriculum framework, we make sure we have focused groups and we have conversations with educators.
We let it get there out on the table. We don’t sit there. We make it a conversation. I think this is what we have to begin now. We have to begin a conversation with teachers in a focus group setting so they can feel free to converse about the program with ideas going back and forth.
I think we have to have focus groups or conversations at site council and PTA meetings. I think we even need to talk to our students. Like I said one of the things that we forget in all of this is that the students are our customers. There are probably students at Davis High right now that have gone through this program and we need to know what was their reaction to it. What do they feel about it and those who didn’t go, how do they feel about this.
I’m really hoping that Ely and Winston (the student reps) can help us on that. We have to listen to them and if we don’t listen to them in this process, then we’ve missed a big part of our mission in terms of listening to them and figuring out what they need.