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Question – Dr. Bates, Regarding the Pole Vaulting analogy, how are teachers to help their students transition when there are 38-43 students in their classes?
Response – Thanks for your response and question. What I have been most pleased about is the reality that all across our district there are glowing bright spots. There are teachers in all of our schools all across the district whose students have proficiency rates much higher than might have been expected given class sizes as you’ve described them or a myriad of other factors you didn’t mention. We are making a concerted effort as a district to identify these bright spots and see what can be done to replicate their achievement.
Sticking with the analogy, I’m suggesting we talk with high jump coaches whose kids have won championships and find out what works for them and their kids despite the long lists of challenges they face. As a counselor, you might have opportunity to look at achievement in your school and other schools through your own professional network (I certainly hope you’re talking with counselors in other schools about what’s working). Learn and share!
Thanks for your question.
Question – The teachers at my school understand the new requirement and the necessity of having daily objectives posted on our boards so that our students stay focused on their learning. My question for the superintendent is this: Since every elementary teacher in the district is supposed to follow the district curriculum mapping with both Imagine It and Go Math!, and we are supposed to have a content and language objectives posted for both of these areas with grade-level appropriate vocabulary every day, why can’t we have grade-specific teams of educators meet and write/ figure out the objectives for each lesson and then post them on the intranet so that there is consistency in the district and so that the other 3,000 of us can just come each morning and pull them off the web and post them each day? This would prevent inconsistency with the objectives and as well as prevent the majority of us from having to reinvent the wheel each morning, adding 5 or 10 minutes to the beginning of each day that we already don’t have, and spending up to an hour of our valuable planning time each Friday figuring them out and writing them down in our plan books, just so that we can hand copy them onto our limited board space in our classroom at the beginning of each day. (Bold printed 72 font writing on an 11 x 17 piece of paper would be better, don’t you think?)
If this is something that could be considered, I would volunteer to be on this team of educators, and I’m sure many others would volunteer, too, providing we were offered lane change credit for doing it. ;0)
Response – The suggestion that we spare teachers the additional responsibility of creating their individual content objectives and provide them at the district level for all elementary teachers to use is a good one. In fact, they already exist on the district provided curriculum maps in language arts and mathematics; they are noted as “I Can. . . ” statements. Also available are generic language objectives to be adapted to fit the lesson and language needs of the students. Hope this helps!
Welcome to the latest snapshot. If you have a question for the superintendent, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to the latest snapshot. If you have a question for the superintendent, email us at email@example.com.
Earlier this month, the superintendent hosted a informational meeting on the requested study of reconfiguring the 9th grade into Hunter High School. This was a community based request and the meeting was the first step in a proposed reconfiguration. As promised at that meeting, we have accumulated questions that were received and have posted responses for your review. We have also attached a PDF (click on the link below entitled, “Grade Reconfiguration Process) that explains the reconfiguration process. If you have additional questions that are not addressed in this post, please send those here. Thanks for your interest.
9th Grade Reconfiguration Questions and Answers:
Why is Hunter High School considering grade reconfiguration or adding the 9th grade?
Last year, the 2012-13 school year, several members of the community approached the Hunter High Community Council expressing interest in looking into the benefits and or possibility of bringing the 9th grade over to the High School. Kennedy and Hunter Junior High Schools Community Councils also had people approach them with a request to look at the possibility of the 9th grade being relocated to the High School. All three Community Councils wrote a formal letter to the Granite School District Administration requesting that a grade reconfiguration be considered for Hunter High.
What are some of the benefits to bringing the 9th grade to Hunter High?
There are many benefits to having the 9th grade at the high school but some of the biggest reasons to consider bringing the 9th grade to the high school would be for the increased opportunities for academics and extra-curricular activities. Students that have wanted to take accelerated or advanced classes would have the ability to do so. Students may be able to graduate earlier or access more college level courses. Administrators, teachers, counselors, and support staff would also be able to provide interventions and support earlier to students that may struggle academically or socially. Students may be less inclined to drop out or fall behind.
Is there enough room to add 9th graders to Hunter High? Isn’t there already too many students? Would the 9th graders fit without bringing in relos? How would Hunter High be able to accommodate more students?
There are currently 6 relocatable classrooms located at Hunter Junior High that could potentially be moved to Hunter High. Additionally, there are several rooms currently at Hunter High that are not being used as traditional classrooms. These rooms would be freed up for instructional purposes. Hunter High School is currently accommodating over 400 students that are on special permits. The number of special permits a school takes in each year is evaluated based on the ability of the school to accommodate them. The Hunter High Administration would work with the Granite School District to make sure there was adequate space to accommodate the 9th grade if the community decided to proceed with this reconfiguration proposal.
Currently, what is class size limit? What size will classes increase to? Will it decrease a teacher’s ability to teach effectively with an influx of students?
Class size is determined by local classroom capacity and programmatic offerings. This would not change in the event of a reconfiguration. Class sizes would not increase. The increase of new students would be offset by teachers and staff who would move over to Hunter High from other schools that have reduced staff, or by hiring new teachers.
What would the student to teacher ratio be?
The current FTE (full-time equivalent) ratio as set by the district is 28.25. This means that a school with 1000 students would be given funds to hire 35 teachers (1000/28.25 = 35.39). More students would mean more teachers and staff to support them.
How can it be a healthy learning environment if you add 600+ kids to lunchroom, halls, and classes?
We have larger school populations in a number of our schools. Population challenges are offset by enhanced scheduling of lunch periods and other strategies to minimize the impact.
Why would it not cost money to bring in more buildings to a parking lot?
Since that work is done in-house, the cost is minimal to relocate those resources.
This reconfiguration is being studied as a result of a community request. The district feels strongly that such decisions should be made at the local level. The School Community Council members (made up of parents and teachers throughout the Hunter High network) have requested the study. The district is simply adhering to the communities’ request.
Why put 9th graders in a new school where there are seniors and also 9th graders are still learning about themselves, they are still kids, give them time to grow.
The current school configuration model for our high schools was not based on academic or social criteria, but instead on necessity due to high initial growth of our school district. In most other places throughout the state and in other states, the 9-12 model is recognized as providing a better, more focused high school atmosphere resulting in higher graduation rates and increased academic outcomes. There is no data that suggests that this type of configuration is detrimental to the academic and social development of 9th grade students.
How do the 12th graders react to the 9th graders in “their school”?
Throughout Salt Lake School District and in Canyons, and in our own Granger High School, there has not appeared to be any adverse reactions to having the 9th grade in the building.
What programs from the Jr. High are you cutting?
We do not anticipate our junior high schools cutting any programs. On the contrary, we are excited about providing a true middle school program for our 7th and 8th grade students that will provide them additional opportunities that may have been limited with older students in the school.
What happens to the Jr. High left half empty?
There is no data that suggest that reconfiguration would leave any of our junior high schools half empty. At best, the loss of the 9th grade would open up around 25-35% of the junior high facilities to allow for the enhancement of our 7-8 middle school programs.
If the change doesn’t take place, could the schedule of the Jr. High Schools be changed to match the High School for activities and clubs?
Individual schools can request schedule changes directly to the board regardless of this reconfiguration proposal. However, such schedule changes would not necessarily increase 9th grade opportunities for activities and clubs.
What happens to the 9th graders who are guaranteed to be in the Quest Program if they move it to Hunter High?
The Quest Program is a Gifted and Talented program that is only offered at Kennedy Junior High. Students in the program are offered three gifted and talented courses, in core subjects in their 9th grade year. We would work to accommodate these students by offering either the same GT classes or other AP or concurrent enrollment classes. There is no reason to believe this reconfiguration would disenfranchise gifted and talented students. On the contrary, additional academic and collegiate level offerings for 9th grade students would prove beneficial.
Will sports align with the students?
Why not move Kennedy Jr. to Kearns High?
A boundary reconfiguration is not needed, nor have any communities requested it. If the reconfiguration proposal were to succeed, both Kearns and Hunter High Schools would both have 9-12 populations. Any student can currently special permit to the school of their choice.
How much traffic will more students make?
Since 9th graders don’t have drivers licenses, it is not expected that there would be any additional parking issues. However, there would be an expected increase in drop off and bus routes. The current physical configuration of Hunter is conducive to moderate increase in morning and afternoon traffic. Adjustments in drop off points can always be made depending on the actual impact.
From this point on, will Hunter be a 9-12 High School?
No, the community will make this decision.
When will this take place?
The earliest this proposal could be adopted would be for the fall of 2015.
How will it affect students on permit? How will it affect future permits and how many can be accepted?
There are currently 400 permits to Hunter High. These could potentially be capped based on full 9-12 enrollment.
Why not a new school?
Hunter High is one of our newest facilities in the district. A new school building is not needed to facilitate a 9-12 reconfiguration.
Can you split high schools? (Granger, Kearns, Hunter)
We would need more information on your question in order to answer it. It is not understood what you are asking.
Additional questions not addressed in this post can be submitted here.
Welcome to the latest snapshot. To submit a question, email it here.
Question – I have been teaching for starting my 7th year in granite district. I spent two years in preschool and the last going on my fifth in the OEK kinder program. While I was teaching preK they would focus our trainings on purposeful teaching that we are suppose to look at what we need to teach and find the best most fun way to teach it. I think of this often, I sometimes see projects or things done in school and think what is the purpose behind it. I have one child in preK and 3 adopted teenagers who all attend granite schools and sometimes I see projects that take two days and I cannot find one purpose in it, other then it is fun. I get frustrated, I am a kindergarten teacher who makes sure I do purposeful things. I think if my child struggles in art I would put him in a art class, I would not look to the school to provide this. I do realize we introduce a lot of things to students and believe this is good, but I get frustrated when I see projects that do not have a purpose and take soooo much time away from academics. Being in kindergarten it is very easy to find cutesy things but they usually do not have a purpose. I think this is a fluff we can cut out. Thank you for listening to my complaint and I hope it is of some use.
Response – Thank you for your thoughts. You’re right on point. Kindergarten lays the foundation for high school graduation which is the reason our public school system exists. Thus, beginning with kindergarten (and in pre-K as well), any and all activities should have a pedagogical objective straight from the core. It should just about go without saying that activities that are meaningful, relevant and engaging (aka “fun”) will be learned and retained. To that end we’ll assume your use of the word “purposeful” means focused on student proficiency in the Utah Core Standards which have been prescribed for all grade levels, including kindergarten, and in all content areas, including arts. With the 13-14 school year, the state will start holding schools accountable with the UCAS system which, we discovered from the dry run last year, is really a measure of fidelity to the state core (NOT fidelity to a particular tool). We highly encourage teachers to use curriculum maps, pacing guides and, where available, screener and benchmark tools for purposes of planning, teaching and assessing learning. As a practical matter, being able to demonstrate student growth along the lines of the core curriculum (all subjects) is becoming a matter of job security – thanks to SB 64. The district is working as quickly as possible to develop helps and tools teachers can use to these ends.
Question – Why do we allows kids to keep moving up a grade if they are failing in reading or math just because they are of that age? If it is okay for them to move up for that reason then all adults should be enrolled in calculus and nuclear engineering for the same reason, they are old enough. To me that is rather ridiculous. This reason has nothing to do with their level of success or understanding. Why as a district won’t we allow to group kids according to their ability and understanding? In other words why are we keeping kids in a class or level just because of age and not considering ability to do that level? Music groups do this all the time in Jr. High and on. That is what they do in college. They do this in sports as well. You can’t just take classes because you are old enough – you have to pass the prerequisite’s first. Why can’t we group kids so that they have a chance to succeed by being in a class based on their ability only? India has done this, and some charter schools in Utah are doing this. These groups are not static either in that once the students have mastered that level they are moved out and upward to the next level immediately. I hear a lot about the U.S. failing, and I believe this is a common sense way to help the kids especially younger to get a better grasp on subjects and not feel like school is worthless and that they are failures and should drop out etc.
Additionally, we received another question dealing with the similar topic of “ability grouping.” Since my first year as an elementary teacher, I have wondered why classes in the district are directed to have approximately even numbers of high, medium, and low children. Differentiating instruction in all areas every day, so that each individual child learns at his or her own pace is an extremely daunting and difficult task, and you can only do so much with small groups. I understand that there are pros and cons to each side of the argument, and having a more homogenous class certainly doesn’t mean we would only have to teach each concept one way, but it seems that if students were grouped according to their abilities, the teaching would be much more effective, since most kids would grasp a concept in a more unified manner (instead of some “getting it” in five seconds and others in five days). Even now that the district is pushing that each grade level have at least one gifted-endorsed teacher, and with so-called “gifted” classes, those classes still have the same wide range of abilities as any other. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Some may argue that student self-esteem is a factor—which it certainly is—but I would think that even if a student is in the “low” class, once he sees that he is not the only one struggling, and that they can all overcome that challenge together, that issue would be diminished. The definition of “fair” isn’t that everyone gets the same thing—it’s that everyone gets what they need. Students need to learn with a group closer to their own level, be it high or low. Some teachers may not want to be stuck with the “low” class, but if it meant I could teach a whole class at the same level (or at least closer to the same level), I would happily take them. Could you please explain the rationale of having even ability distribution in all classes, instead of grouping by ability?
Response – Grade retention is a serious process requiring, first, parental request and, second, a school level committee decision based on a wide variety of criteria beyond math and reading scores. We believe that all students can learn and be academically successful and that it is our job to provide the differentiated instruction and academic supports to help them realize that potential, regardless of their background, socio-economic status, etc. It has been asked why we don’t do what is done in India, where “once the students have mastered that level they area moved out and upward”. We do – we expect teachers to differentiate for students who, when they master an academic concept, are moved on to other concepts, exposed to more depth and complexity, provided enrichment. This (linked) district memo addresses these questions in detail.
Research has repeatedly shown that as a whole, heterogeneously grouped students perform better than a collective group dispersed into homogeneous groups. Our focus will be to continue to provide differentiated instruction specific to each individual child’s needs.
Thank you to the Instruction and Learning Department for their assistance in responding to these questions.
Question – When teachers get paid for their students’ performance, what will be the criteria used to pay counselors for their students’ performance?
Response – You appear to referring to the state’s plan to tie teacher evaluation – and ultimately compensation – to student achievement. The state plan hasn’t been completely formulated yet, but teachers will be accountable for state-mandated test scores, and teachers who do not teach those assessed subjects will be in some way accountable through shared attribution of those test scores or accountable to other sorts of assessment. It is the intent of the USOE to create a system of accountability for all educators that is rooted in academic achievement of students; it is likely that counselors will be included in that system in some way as it is developed.