High School Redesign & Academic Rigor: East High United Meeting 11/9 @ 7:00p.m.

With all of the talk about the district’s high schools going through a redesign process (similar to what the middle schools did last summer), I think it’s important that as many interested people as possible attend the East High United meeting at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at East High School [map/directions].
I recently asked principal Alan Harris about English 9 and whether it would continue to be divided into three ability groupings: TAG, Academically Motivated, and regular. I was pleased to find out that they no longer call one section Academically Motivated. Instead, it’s called Advanced.
At any rate, Alan told me that assistant principal David Watkins is the best contact for all information regarding core academics (English, Math, Science, Social Studies). He also told me that they are in the current planning stages for next year and can’t say whether ability groupings will be offered.
Alan stated: “At our East High United meeting on November ninth, at 7:00 we will be discussing our Vision 2012 goals related to high expectations. Advanced classes, TAG programming and curriculum expectations will be a part of this discussion.”
If TAG programming, high expectations, and academic rigor are important to you, please attend this meeting and voice your concerns.
Thank you,
Alan Sanderfoot
H 608.242.7344
E sanderfoot at charter.net

13 thoughts on “High School Redesign & Academic Rigor: East High United Meeting 11/9 @ 7:00p.m.”

  1. This sounds like East is gearing up to head down the path blazed by West High School. I would encourage concerned parents from across the district to attend this meeting.

  2. Does anyone know whether Vision 2012 is an initiative only at East, all high schools, or the entire district?

  3. The first time that Alan met with East parents, he expressed his puzzlement over the use of “Academically Motivated” as a term. He asked, “does this mean that the other English ISN’T academically motivated?”
    Unless the change in term is accompanied by a change in course descriptions and/or the structure of East’s English offerings, this is a name change more than anything else. Alan has been consistent about this issue from day one, so I strongly encourage anyone who is following this issue to listen carefully to what is being said and by whom before jumping to conclusions. I also urge East parents to remain engaged in the process and advocate for educational quality as needed.
    I would note that East has kept many of its advanced courses – whether named advanced or not – while West was divesting them. For example, the precalculus math course is still taught at East. If my information is correct, West stopped teaching it around 4 years ago. Again, this doesn’t mean that there is no work to be done at East, but rather to note that the curricular structure stands on its own and always has for good or bad.
    The Vision 2012 is an East High process and one that was developed and advertised among parents and the community last April and May. There were follow up meetings arranged through the North Side Planning Council (mainly Abha, I believe) in Kennedy Heights, Northport, and other neighborhood centers as well as at East.

  4. Never heard of Vision 2012 before reading this email from Alan Harris to Alan Sanderfoot.
    But here’s what I got back from a teacher at East, in response to an email query I sent about a placement issue:
    “In the past the TAG program was a program to which students would apply. They needed to write an essay, provide transcripts, and have teacher recommendations. It looks as if your child would have no problem being approved for TAG. This program is currently under review for the 2007-08 school year, however. The principals will be sharing any adjustments with staff, students, and parents in mid-November. Please feel free to attend the East High United meeting on November 9th at 7:00 for discussion of Advanced classes, TAG programming, and curriculum expectations.
    “If you just wanted a simple answer in November, Dave Watkins, who is the Assistant Principal in charge of curriculum, will be handling TAG placement for next year.
    “I hope this information is helpful.”
    Is it my imagination or does it sound like a plan is in place and that the East community will be told about it on November 9?
    My prediction is that East will be moving from three levels of classes (which they have had for many years across all four grades) to only two — Regular and Advanced — just like they have at LaFollette. What will be interesting to see is if they maintain two levels of opportunity, even in 9th grade, or if they take things a step further and institute a 9th grade core, like West now has in 9th AND 10th grade. (Memorial has some common core in 9th grade, but they let truly advanced 9th graders skip over it — something that West used to allow, but doesn’t any longer.)
    In any event, I couldn’t agree more with Sanderfoot and Henriques. If you care about maintaining bona fide academic rigor and a full range of educational opportunity in our high schools, then please try to attend the meeting at East on the 9th — no matter what part of the District you live in or how old your children are.

  5. The 2012 process would be more familiar to parents of students at East because there were mailings, call outs, and a newsletter article. Since your children are at West, it makes sense that you wouldn’t have heard of it.
    While I appreciate your concern for the children of East, I also would suggest that the East community – which is the most affected by the topics under discussion above – compare what is proposed to what has existed and what the school and its community aspire to in its academic programs. East parents are quite good at speaking for themselves and assessing what does and does not make sense. I am confident that if this is a thinly cloaked dumbing down of the curriculum, there will be an appropriate response from East parents, students, and staff.
    Let West deal with its issues without dragging East into the fray.

  6. I’ve been an east side parent involved in the schools for nine years, and I have not heard about the 2012 process before. Is it only being communicated to East High parents? If so, I think that’s misguided.
    The families that have the most to benefit from any positive changes are those with kids heading into East High in the next five to ten years. Therefore, it seems like every family from every elementary and middle feeder school should be made aware of the 2012 process so that they can get involved now and impact changes that will benefit their children by the time they reach East High.
    Meanwhile, in response to Lucy Mathiak’s remarks, I welcome ideas, opinions and suggestions from anyone with an interest in improving public education — regardless of which side of town he or she resides. I’m not one to turn away a good idea just because I didn’t think of it myself.

  7. The course called “Pre-Calculus” that used to be offered at West consisted of Algebra II/Trig plus Algebra III — all taught in a single academic year. It was a fast paced course that offered students enrolled in Geometry as 9th graders a way to accelerate through the high school math curriculum and take a year each of Calculus AB and Calculus BC before graduation. Indeed, that “Pre-Calculus” course was discontinued 3-4 years ago, which meant that only students who took Geometry in 8th grade — as well as students who took math over the summer — would be able to fit in two years of Calculus before going to college. Because that group of students has always been fairly small at West, there was concern that, in time, Calculus BC would no longer be offered, simply because there wouldn’t be enough students ready to take it. Instead, as a result of the end-of-fifth-grade math assessment, the number of West area 8th grade students taking Geometry has actually increased some, enough to offer protection for Calculus BC.
    Beginning last year, a course entitled “Pre-Calculus” again started to appear in the West course catalog; however, the new course is simply Algebra III with a new name. My sense — and I could be wrong about this — is that courses called “Pre-Calculus” at the other high schools are similar to what West now offers by that name, not the accelerated combined course that they use to offer. (Anyone who knows otherwise should please set us straight.)
    On another point, I don’t think anyone anywhere in the District is at all upset to see the label “Acacemically Motivated” go away. On the contrary, I think it’s pretty amazing that a label like that has been in use, for exactly the point Lucy says Alan Harris made.
    Finally, I find myself wanting to say that I think we’re all in this together, east, west, north and south. After ten-plus years of watching and witnessing, I have come to believe deeply in District-wide communication, transparency, cooperation and mutual support. Yes, there is a place for local (that is, school-based) control; but I also think there is a need to resist the forces that “divide and conquer.” I know that West parents have been grateful to the non-West parents who have attended our PTSO meetings and written to the Superintendent and BOE in recent years about changes at West. Very grateful. Those parents attended and wrote because they, too, believed that we’re all in this together and because they were worried that what was going on at one school would eventually happen at the others. We have always promised to return the support when the need arose. Perhaps that time has not yet arrived (I am always happy to be wrong about these things; delighted, in fact); nevertheless, it is always good to stay well informed.

  8. I agree that we are all in this together. I just think that whatever is being proposed for East should be viewed on its own terms rather than through the lens of the changes at West. It may be that they are related, it may be that they are not.
    My cautionary note is offered because of the exhortations that the East 2012 process (which I have my own disagreements with) is some sort of secretive conspiracy when it clearly is not. The goals were included in the school newsletter and are available on-line at: http://www.madison.com/communities/EastHighUnited/library/files/East%20High%20School_VISION%202012.pdf
    Similarly, I am concerned that changes that have yet to be announced are being presented on this blog as an obvious extension of the changes at West. Yes, good ideas can come from anywhere. But it also is helpful to respect the people and organizations that have been and remain engaged in the debates as those ideas are offered.
    The full language on the November 9 meeting is:
    The next EHU meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 9th, in the Library (LMC). The main topic of this meeting will be a presentation by school staff and subsequent discussion of a East High Vision 2012 goal: “High Expectations and Accountability.” This section includes some of the following issues:
    * Setting high-level academic expectations (expanding TAG, improving writing components, holding students and teachers accountable)
    * Expanding targeted learning opportunities for moderate and marginal students
    * Safe, respectful climate within school
    * Understand race/diversity issues and implications
    Hence my admonition to listen then critique. In past discussions, East parents have been as interested in diversifying its predominantly white and middle or upper class TAG courses and in raising the bar in ALL classes as they have been in ensuring that the school continues to offer advanced academic opportunities. This is one East’s strengths as a school community and one that should be allowed to work for the school.
    What is to be announced may be as bad as some are saying, but to set it up in an adversarial light based on the West experience before anything has been presented seems premature at best.

  9. Thanks for the link to the 2012 document, Lucy. This is the first I’ve seen of it, and it supports my argument that this process needs to be communicated to all of the elementary and middle school families that feed into East High.
    After all, the first line reads: “Engage all of the community in the vision for our school”.
    Under the section on strengthening parent and community relationships, No. 2 states: “Create a vibrant K-12 Eastside school network including parents, staff and community.”
    It would seem to me that one of the first steps in this process would be to make sure that the K-12 families and the community know that this planning process exists.
    Because my children won’t start attending East until next year, I don’t receive the school newsletter. And I’m not likely to spend hours browsing a Web site for a document I don’t even know exists. How hard would it be to send a letter home to familes or have a flier inserted with report cards? Also, effective communication requires an ongoing effort. Assuming that everyone should know about this because it appeared once in a school newsletter is not a good marketing strategy. Something this important clearly deservers a bigger communications effort.

  10. Dear Alan,
    You are preaching to the choir on this one. The issues that you outline are part of my concerns over the 2012 process. It was supposed to engage parents down the school chain, but how successfully that was done is a question. The East-Emerson Neighborhood Associations were involved as was the Northside Planning Council (I think), so the process was visible beyond the school boundaries.
    In general, our schools often communicate with parents by sending things home in backpack mail (Bermuda Triangle) or via letters that arrive after the event. Area for improvement.
    My other concern with the East 2012 process is the degree to which school administrators are engaging with all of its communities. A school that is over 40% minority and 40% low income cannot have a process that is not creative in the who and how it communicates. I believe that the Northside Planning Council helped to connect the process with a broader range of parent communities, but my argument is that those connections should be SOP.

  11. I was inundated with Vision 2012 announcements last spring, and I didn’t even have a child at East yet (next fall). Between electronic lists, the NorthSide News, and other parents talking…

  12. The meeting originally planned for tonight will be next Thursday, 11/16, at 7:00 p.m. Find out more by clicking on the link Ed Hughes has provided.

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