Eagle Crest PTO Listening Session

I had the opportunity to visit with about 15 parents at Eagle Crest Elementary School on Monday, February 11 – I got home just in time to see KU blow its lead against Texas.  Alas.

The group of parents who I met with is thoughtful, enthusiastic and extraordinarily supportive of their children’s school.  The group is a role model PTO.  Every time I visit I get ideas to pass along to the Central Elementary PTO (where my children attend).  I want to thank the group for allowing me to attend.

I posed the following questions to the group of parents.  We had a non-linear discussion.

1.      What skills and experiences do you want to make sure your children are developing as they move through school in the district?

2.      What is needed to help St. Vrain on the path toward being an exemplary school district?

3.      What is the school and school district already doing well?

4.      What does school accountability look like to you?

Here are the themes from our conversation.

Creativity.  The group emphasized the need for creative thinking to be part of every subject.  There is concern that preparation for standardized tests undermines creativity.  A specific example mentioned by the group is they would like to see far more emphasis on the fine arts.

I asked the group about how U.S. students compare to other nations, for instance, in math.  The group suggested that creativity is our competitive advantage and we must not lose our focus on developing this attribute in our children.  One parent talked about working with people all over the globe.  Another shared an experience teaching in Japan.  Both said that they don’t want their children to be like the children from other countries.  They perceive that other countries do not support creativity the way we do/should here.

Critical thinking.  Eagle Crest parents would like their children to have more experiences dealing with ambiguous problems in which there are not clear right and wrong answers but in which judgment is required.

Experiential learning.  Parents would like their children to have more hands on learning experiences especially in the area of science.  They also would like to see their children learning outdoors from time to time.  For instance, parents said, learning about the environment from a book or screen is not the same as being in the environment.

Preserve recess.  As the need for instruction time grows, Eagle Crest parents say that it is essential to balance this with time to move and play.

Alternative methods of assessment.  Parents question the validity of a single test as the way to assess a student or a school.  Parents in this discussion would prefer that student’s have a portfolio of work evaluated over the course of a year.  These parents say they measure the success of a school based on the growth of individual students – are children making at least a year’s growth.

Second language instruction at an earlier age.  Parents in our discussion say that we are doing a disservice to children by not making language instruction part of an elementary education – especially in today’s global society.  They see educational value beyond just learning a language.

Math and writing.  Parents had good things to say about the math and writing programs at Eagle Crest.  The math approach does stimulate creative and critical thinking, parents said.  And, the writing program is helping students develop and organize detailed thoughts.

Technology.  Parents said that it is important for St. Vrain schools to beef up technology; and to make sure that technology is standard (equitable) across the district.  One parent cautioned not to become overly enamored with technology – it’s not a substitute for learning, she said.

School calendar.  Parents are open to some type of modified year round calendar with more frequent breaks between segments of the year.  Most of the parents in the group do want to preserve a significant chunk of time in the summer for families and to let kids be kids.

Neighborhood schools.  The group of parents who attended this session are concerned about preserving neighborhood schools.  They believe too many families leave their community in search of a “focus” school.  Some of the parents in the group don’t see the wisdom in developing focus schools within the district that might contribute to more fragmentation.

Equity concerns.  Many students who attend Eagle Crest will attend Blue Mountain elementary next year.  Blue Mountain is considered the sister school.  Blue Mountain is considering some form of a math, science and technology focus for the school.  That is an exciting prospect to parents.  But, parents whose children will continue to attend Eagle Crest are concerned about the equity between the two schools.  And, some parents expressed concern that they are learning about this focus after the open enrollment process.

Note: It is still possible for parents to open enroll their children in other schools but students who open enroll now will be lower on the priority list once the open enrollment slots are known and filled.

I am sending the link to this blog entry to the Eagle Crest PTO president so that he can send to others.  It would be great if parents who took part in the conversation added comments – in particular if there are items I missed or if members of the group heard different themes.

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One Response to “Eagle Crest PTO Listening Session”

  1. Brad Jolly Says:

    Ah, yes. The old false dilemma pitting competence against creativity rears its ugly head once again.
    Nonsense on steroids.

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