Here are my notes from the first parent council meeting held October 14, 2010.
District Administrator Dan Nerad welcomed us and spoke about how this new parent council is the district’s attempt to reach out to stakeholders. He said the new teacher council had met immediately prior to the parent council meeting. Both groups should serve as important conduits for information from and to the district from all school buildings.
Deputy Superintendent Sue Abplanalp and Assistant Superintendents Pam Nash, and Jennie Allen led the discussion on several topics the rest of the evening. The first topic on the agenda was the alignment of K-12 and transitions from level to level. What does literacy look like from K through grade 12? A literacy committee has been trying to develop answers to this question and will announce its findings in December. What does the transition from grade 5 to 6 or from grade 8 to 9 include? The district hopes to wrap needed services around the kids and have transitions in the schools look alike. According to Sue, Madison has islands of excellence, but we need to create a system of excellence in which standards are aligned across the district—we need to ensure that what we do in kindergarten leads to the outcome we expect in 12th grade, graduation.
The second topic was the high school plan. The common core standards in math and language arts have been adopted in Wisconsin. However, the Madison High Schools are very different in which courses they offer to their students. The district wants to retain the individual “flavor” of each high school, but it does not want geography to determine which courses a student may take in 9-12. All students need access to rigorous courses—the district wants to make pathways open to all. Pam discussed the growth in the Madison Virtual Campus and the AVID system (Advancement via Individual Determination) as positive developments.
We next discussed the Assessment Committee. The statewide student assessments, the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams or WKCE, are going away. The new assessment will be based on the ACT. A district-wide committee is studying how future assessments should look in Madison. Several participants raised questions about the lack of feedback their children receive in the elementary grades as conferences are rarely held and the first ones not held until November 11th. A new professional development department has been created in the district office with six staffers. This move should strengthen the district’s efforts to develop better teachers in all schools.
The participants ended the evening by suggesting topics for the group to discuss at its next meeting on November 11. If you have questions you believe the Lapham-Marquette PTG should take to the district’s parent council, please bring them to the regular monthly PTG meeting.