The combined Education and Pupil Services Committee meeting earlier this week was particularly important because of two highly anticipated agenda items: an update on the equity mission and a presentation on plans to removing leveling for 6th grade English Language Arts.
Pupil Services Committee Highlights:
The Pupil Services Committee voted on the Chapter 339 K-12 Comprehensive Counseling Plan. The plan, which is required by the PA Department of Education (PDE) is connected to the WCASD Comprehensive Plan and helps enforce a connection between schools, colleges/universities, and student career path. The committee approved the plan and it now moves to a full board vote.
Education Committee Highlights:
Parent Comment Summary Many parents spoke about the need for more research on de-tracking language arts classes. The research that was presented seems to be all positive and there should be more information on schools that have looked into de-tracking and why those schools did not choose to de-track. The research also shows that heterogeneous grouping works in small class sizes. Has the district made arrangements for smaller class sizes? There was a concise voice of concern for students above and below grade level getting lost, bored, or embarrassed when using heterogeneous grouping. There is also a concern that the boredom that may come from this sort of grouping will cause more distractions and behavior issues. How will GIEP student’s needs be met? It is clear there is a gap in achievement and we need to look into why students are behind, but we need to address the root cause. Students that are below grade average are already feeling like outcasts and struggling with Social Emotional Learning. How are we going to meet their needs and help them get the confidence they need to succeed? Teachers will need adequate training and more development on how to use heterogeneous grouping in their classrooms which will take a lot of time to figure out how to implement, as well as find material for their different groupings within the class. How will teachers be supported, both in respecting their experience and expertise, as well as in the classroom? In the past the district has used trial based methods to see how a program can be rolled out. Would this be an option for de-tracking? A community member also spoke to the forward-looking actions explicitly addressing the systemic issues and how it could relate to the conversation about leveling. How does leveling impact the Equity mission? How will the director of equity be included in these conversations?
Esports Mr. Wagman, Mr. Diehl, Mrs. Wagner, and 2 students from Henderson highlighted the ways the Esports clubs at Rustin and Henderson are reaching students in the 21st century. Students are doing in-person meet-ups to discuss and create content on their previously recorded games (broadcasting type learning) and then will have meet-ups at home from within the games with teacher supervision. There have been scholarships and grants offered in relation to Esports. This also allows for students that are not interested in other clubs or sports to boost their portfolio. The board is excited to hear more on the interest and growth of these programs.
Sixth Grade ELA Leveling Dr. Reynolds thanked parents for emailing and coming out to the committee meeting to discuss the path forward. They had decided not to make a decision at this time and will create a committee of admin, teachers, parents, and possibly students. Mrs. Bailey spoke about the research they are using and why they chose that research.
Published within last 15 years
Published in prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals
Focus on quantifiable evidence of effect: academic achievement
Two types of articles:
Individual studies of tracking in school districts, states, or countries
Meta-analyses that reviewed all existing research on tracking that met stringent methodological quality standards
Mrs. Bailey outlined the following next steps:
◆ Continue to research academic levels and its impacts on all students.
◆ Hear from our families and students about their experiences in leveled and unleveled courses.
◆ Continue to engage in conversation and professional development with elementary and middle school faculty and administrators.
◆ Convene an exploratory committee to continue this work.
◆ As an Exploratory Committee, we will:
◆ Engage in conversation with districts that have removed leveling.
(as well as schools that looked into removing leveling and chose not to)
◆ Regroup and discuss findings
Board directors spoke about including parents on the committee. They are interested to see that we are working to close the achievement gap and that change is scary. “Thank you for looking into something that may change that achievement gap.” The de-tracking 6th grade groups would look similar to 5th grade reading groups in a way. It would allow for choice in text and strategies to support the readers. De-tracking allows for fluidity. The guiding questions allow for exploration into the path forward and decisions for when to take those next steps forward. Speaking to the transition from 5th to 6th being a difficult and big transition on students, one director spoke about being comfortable with the transition in 6th grade, but not necessarily for 7th and 8th. How are we going to be tracking the efficacy of the transition. And it will not work for all students (as with all teaching instruction), how to we help those students?
“Research can only get us so far. There’s been a really rigorous body of research on tracking for the last 30 years. And it’s pretty clear that de-tracking can help improve academic achievement. But with that, the devil is in the details first of all. And as Stacey just pointed out that doesn't mean that just because research shows that over all this might be true, it doesn't mean it’s true for every student. And so the fact that we are going to be engaging and processing many of the questions that frankly the research is not going to answer for us. We’re going to have to look to our peers in other schools. We’re going to have to look maybe at schools that considered detracking and didn't detrack in addition to schools that did. We’re going to have to get information from professionals because researchers are one step removed from that, right? They’re looking at the 30,000 ft level. We need to be engaging with our community and our parents and our peers in other schools to explore and figure out “what are the barriers to doing this well or what might other strategies be.”
-Director Kate Shaw
ESSER Funding - Presented by Dr. Reynolds ESSER funding refers to federal relief dollars that all school districts in the nation were provided to address major challenges we encountered during COVID. Since receiving ESSER funding in the 2020 school year, the West Chester Area School District (WCASD) has spent $6.6 million of the funding to address both immediate pandemic-related needs and long-term district improvements. (From a $10 million total) Plan for future ESSR spending : $2.4 on safety and cleaning materials (82%); $374K on Learning Opportunities (summer and tutoring opportunities 13%); $164 on Mental Health (6%) As long as we are using ESSR funding we will need to have a health and safety plan.
DEI Update - Presented by Interim Equity Director Dr. Martin “We have heard you…what has become of that equity audit?” Dr. Martin indicated that most of the recommendations from the equity audit live in the first 3 goals of the comprehensive plan. Priorities come right from equity audit recommendations. Dr. Martin is working on a larger document to combine equity audit with the strategic plan. It will show how interwoven the equity work is “not a one man show” but rather embedded throughout the district Dr. Martin also spoke about increasing student voice opportunities and the potential opportunities for volunteerism to help with closing the achievement gap.
The next meetings will be held:
Policy Review and Property & Finance: Tuesday 2/21/2023 @ 5:30 pm
Monthly Full Board Meeting: Monday 2/27/2023 7:00 pm