12/9/05 Reply to West Principal Ed Holmes re: English 10

Hi, Ed. Thanks for writing. I look forward to seeing the material you’re putting up on the website.
A couple of other questions —
I’m curious to know what Shwaw Vang has asked you for? In particular, did his request include outcome data for English 9? As you know, many of us think a thorough evaluation of English 9 is the wisest (and most responsible) first step to take in developing English 10. Wouldn’t it be a shame not to avail ourselves of the several years’ worth of data there for the picking?
Also, given that one of the concerns driving the English 10 initiative is concern that some students don’t take the higher level electives and some get through West without any bona fide literature and writing courses, did anyone think about requiring a certain number of upper level electives, literature courses, and writing courses for graduation? That seems to me the most straightforward approach to the stated problem.
I am glad to know that you are starting to see us as your partners in this process — not your adversaries — and that you are grappling with the Very Challenging Truth that West’s diverse student body does not have exactly the same learning needs throughout, thus the needs cannot be met effectively with standardized, cookie-cutter solutions.
Speaking of partnership and the diversity of solutions needed, later today I will be dropping off the 20-minute DVD on the Odyssey Project that Emily Auerbach sent me. I would appreciate getting it back by winter break. Feel free to share it with Keesia, Pam, Art and any others. It’s really powerful. When I think of some of the students who appear in the film being available to dialogue with students and teachers at West, well, I get really hopeful.
Finally, please know that no one is questioning the excellence or commitment of anyone involved in this conversation and struggle. Never have been. I truly believe that we all have the kids as our highest priority.
Have a good weekend.

2 thoughts on “12/9/05 Reply to West Principal Ed Holmes re: English 10”

  1. I called Shwaw Vang (Chair of the Performance and Achievement Committee) to ask him to hold a committee meeting on the changes at West. Of course, he did not answer my call.
    This continual non-responsiveness by board members damages the institutional integrity of the board and district, undermining public confidence.

  2. Yes, indeed, it does, Ed. Why don’t they understand that?
    For my part, I emailed Carol Carstensen today, asking if a date has been set for a BOE discussion of heterogeneous versus homogeneous ability grouping in our middle and high schools. I also told her we have asked several District officials for both the MMSD data and the published empirical studies that are driving the District’s move towards complete heterogeneity in our secondary school classrooms, but that no one has thus far responded to our requests. I suggested that maybe she would have better luck than we have had, and that perhaps she could request the data and studies and share them with us.

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