Please join us on Wednesday, March 27, for the Tam District’s Board of Trustees meeting which will be held at Tamalpais High School. The meeting will start at 7:00 p.m. in Classroom 2020 (Room 300), and will feature a reception, the introduction of the new Tam High principal, a presentation on district curriculum work, and a number of Tam High-related discussions, including presentations about CTE, the Global Studies field trip to Cuba, the AIM Program, Link Crew, and more! We hope you will join us at this meeting.
Monday, February 11, 2013
A Message from the Board of Trustees and Superintendent Kimbrel:
Thank you to all of you who took the time over the past weeks to share your thoughts regarding the Team Program. As was stated at the Board of Trustees meeting on February 6, the articulate, passionate stories from individuals who have benefited from the program were moving and meaningful to all who read or heard them. It is reassuring to know that our community is passionate about our educational programs and that civil discourse is alive in the political process.
The Board of Trustees listened carefully to all who came to the meeting to speak and asked thoughtful questions of both administrative and Team staff. Board discussion showed support for the continuation of the Team program, given its benefits to the students who enroll. The board also expressed interest in a collaborative effort between administration and the Team staff so that recruitment efforts can be expanded to encourage a greater variety of students to apply and so that acceptance criteria are explicit, transparent, and available to all stakeholders.
No board action is needed for an existing program to continue. The Team staff has been notified that Team will indeed run next year.
Again, please know that the Board of Trustees and Superintendent appreciate your input and support. We look forward to continuing the conversation about improving the experience and outcomes for all students enrolled in our schools. More information will be coming later this year regarding the innovative programming research and advisory committee. The momentum is exciting and we look forward to a partnership with our communities as we move forward in our journey of continuous improvement.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
What’s all the Fuss About? Clarifying the Work of Continuous Improvement Underway at the Tamalpais Union High School District
Over the past weeks, there has been a spate of inaccurate editorials, opinion pieces and letters to the editor in both print and social media regarding the work underway in the Tamalpais Union High School District. As is so often the case, the acceptance of these inaccuracies as truth without first checking the facts has resulted in some erroneous assumptions as misinformation is repeated. Despite the various parent and community communications from the district, the one-sided viewpoints published have left many wondering where TUHSD is headed and why.
Why is continuous improvement necessary?
The Board of Trustees and District leadership believe it is a moral imperative to ensure that all students are ready for life and employment in the 21st century. Business as usual is not good enough:
- In the information age and global economy, education is the prerequisite to the American dream; therefore, all students should be prepared and have the choice about what kind of post secondary education they will pursue.
- Our mission requires that “all students demonstrate mastery of core competencies” and in order to fulfill that promise, staff must work together to identify these competencies, how to measure them, and must develop predictable, effective systems for students who need more time or support.
- We have a professional responsibility to enhance our current instruction and assessment practices to meet recommendations outlined in current research and known best practices related to student achievement.
- TUHSD has a persistent achievement gap – low socioeconomic and African American students have lower grades and test scores and are not likely to complete UC entrance requirements. 75% of white students graduate from our schools eligible for UC entrance, as opposed to 30% of our African American students. Similarly, only 34% of low-income students are eligible for UC entrance, as opposed to 75% of non low-income students. (More information about the achievement gap is available in the TUHSD Achievement Report.)
- Minority students are significantly over represented in special education programs.
What work is currently being done to address these issues?
Professional staff members are working in teams to identify what all students should know and be able to do, to develop meaningful ways to measure student progress and systems to intervene when students need more time or support.
- Teachers have identified “program goals” for each course or series of courses. Program goals are what students should know or be able to do as a result of taking a course. Administration has not told teachers what is essential in a course, teachers are collaboratively making decisions based on their content expertise and professional judgment.
- Teachers are currently working on a meaningful system to assess students’ mastery of the program goals. These teacher-developed assessments will guide instruction and provide information about which students need extra help and which students are ready for enrichment.
- Over the course of the next 18 months, site leaders, teachers, and counselors will develop intervention plans so that students receive timely, targeted assistance when needed.
- The curriculum will be “cookie cutter.”
- The truth is that teachers are determining essential skills that are important enough for all students to master. This will even out the playing field so that we know that when students finish one class, they are ready for the next. Essential skills don’t make up an entire curriculum of a course. Teacher choice remains for all other skills and activities.
- Teacher creativity will be eliminated.
- In fact, teacher creativity is essential to good instruction. Teachers will still be free to plan the activities and experiences that will move their students toward mastery of the program goals.
- There will be fewer opportunities for high achieving students.
- Again, just the opposite is true. The assessments will allow teachers to gather accurate information about student performance. Students who have mastered concepts should be provided opportunities to problem solve and to apply the concepts to novel situations.
- Our system has become “top down.”
- Teachers working together in teams will actually flatten the organization. Teams have been empowered to collaboratively create and agree upon program goals and assessments. However, the “lone wolf” style of teaching by closing the classroom door and working in isolation is no longer an option.
The board and administrative team are committed to the Tam District mission statement; in fact, it is our moral imperative to ensure that all students are prepared for 21st century life.
We encourage our stakeholders to seek clarity about the true work of the district and not to be misled by those who seek to maintain the status quo. Good schools are not the best we can do, and business as usual is not good enough. We can ensure great outcomes for all our students by empowering our teachers to work in teams, to foster collaboration, and to learn from one another. Our students deserve nothing less.