I believe a relevant and challenging curriculum is the #1 priority for any educational organization. There have been a number of questions raised over the years regarding the Madison School District’s curriculum, including Math, English and Fine Arts and the recent controversial changes at Sherman Middle School (more details in Kathy Esposito’s recent Isthmus article).
The District is currently conducting a Middle School Curriculum Review, lead by Assistant Superintendent Pam Nash (Formerly Principal of Memorial High School). Pam lead a Parent Forum Thursday evening, which I attended (one of about 28 participants). (7MB video clip of Pam kicking off the Forum). The goal of this event was to collect feedback from parents regarding these five questions (pdf version):
- The school district is continually working to build more rigor into the learning experiences that students have. Rigor is defined as commitment to a core subject matter knowledge, a high demand for thinking, and an active use of knowledge. When you think of a rigorous academic curriculum in the middle school, what would it look like?
- What experiences do you want your child to have in middle school to enhance his or her social and emotional growth?
- What are your hopes and dreams for your child in middle school?
- What are your greatest concerns for your child in middle school?
- If you could design Madison middle schools in any way you wanted, what would they be like?
Pam mentioned that the parent comments would be posted on the district’s website, hopefully next week. She also said that the district would post these questions online, in an interactive way so that parents who were unable to attend Thursday’s event might add their comments.
My notes follow:
- Superintendent Art Rainwater wants the middle school curriculum task force to report back to him by mid December (2005).
- The task force “design teams” recently broke up into “work teams”.
- Recommendations will affect middle school allocations.
- I asked Pam when this process began. She said it started one month ago.
- Pam mentioned that they hope to pull the parent group together one more time, in December.
I was initially displeased that the group of 28 participants was broken up (I was interested in hearing all of the conversations). However, I thought that the format was rather effective in obtaining comments from all participants (at least those in my group). Kudos to Pam for collecting a good deal of information.
I spoke briefly with Pam when the event concluded. I mentioned that it appears to me, a layman, that it would be challenging to implement major changes via a two month task force. However, incremental changes occuring via the allocations are certainly possible (for better or worse).
I heard many useful suggestions on these questions and will point to them when available on the District’s website.
Learn more about the “Middle Grades Design Team” via this Board presentation (800K PDF file) Email your comments on this initiative to the Madison School Board: firstname.lastname@example.org