Conversation Themes – Parents

Since January, school board members have been making a concerted effort to visit each of the schools within the school district.  We have been holding conversations with parents and teachers in our respective representative areas of the school district.

I have held conversations at the following schools:

Parents:

·         Eagle Crest Elementary

·         Central Elementary

·         Altona Middle School

·         Longmont High School Education Foundation

·         Silver Creek

·         Westview Middle School (attended “town hall” as an incoming parent)

Teachers:

·         Eagle Crest Elementary

·         Central Elementary

·         Altona Middle School

·         Longmont High School

·         Silver Creek High School (Fall of ’07)

Combined:

·         Blue Mountain Elementary Planning Team

·         Rocky Mountain Elementary (Tamales & Talk)

Community:

·         Latino Advocacy Committee

Today, I am posting themes from my conversations with parents.  Tomorrow, I will post themes from my conversations with teachers.

I would encourage readers to comment.  Which of these themes resonate with you most?  Which of these themes do not resonate?  Why?  What would you add to the list?

If you are a parent who took part in these conversations, is there something I missed or got wrong?

The overarching question I posed in my discussion groups was: As a school district, how might we move closer toward our potential.

Overarching Theme:

Respect and support for principals and teachers.  Ready to support/work for more resources for the school district – as long as it impacts the classrooms.  Concerned that the school district is falling behind the times.

Most commonly mentioned  issues:

“21st Century Skills” (my label not theirs).  In every parent conversation, parents said they want their children’s learning experiences to place greater emphasis on creativity, critical thinking and collaboration/group learning.  These types of skills are of greater concern than elevating test scores in the “basics” of math, reading and writing.

More robust curriculum.  As a means toward “21st Century Skills” parents say they would like to see more science and nature (outdoor learning), language instruction at early grades and more emphasis on fine arts, more emphasis on algebra in middle schools.  High school parents are concerned about maintaining AP offerings.  Parents also mentioned integrated learning experiences that combine multiple subjects of the types of things they liked to see more.

Don’t squeeze out recess, play and movement.  Parents are concerned that budget constraints and an emphasis on standardized tests will lead to elimination of play and movement.  This is something parents (elementary in particular) would like to see more of not less.

Rethink Assessments.  Antipathy toward standardized tests came up in every discussion (especially strong among elementary and middle school parents).  Parents, by and large, do not like the current assessment regime.  Parents do not see how standardized tests, for instance, are serving their children’s needs and interests.  Parents do believe that assessments are important but not the current approach.  When asked for alternatives, parents emphasized these types of changes:  Individual growth over the course of a year (personal progression); a portfolio of work, and something that parents can do in response (again, emphasized at the elementary level).

At the high school level, parents want more emphasis on ACT tests and tests that build toward ACT.  These are more relevant and help students gauge themselves nationally, parents say.  I have heard similar comments from high school students.

Consistent (not uniform) Opportunities.  Parents, to varying degrees, accept and/or support the notion of different schools providing students with different options and opportunities.  But, parents are concerned about the unevenness of opportunities – e.g. some schools have a focus others don’t.  Parents also perceive that different schools have different standards.  They say it is difficult to understand what the districts’ standards are.  And, parents say, they don’t understand how decisions are made that enable some schools to provide options while other schools don’t.

Equity.  Parents expressed concern about the disparities that exist, in particular, between new and older schools.  Technology is where they found this most notable.  PTOs with strong fundraising capacities see that they can address these inequities but would rather direct their money in other ways – rather than what they consider paying for basics.

Support for a MLO.  With only a few exceptions, parents expressed willingness and an urgency to help pass a MLO.  Parents want to make sure that a MLO will impacts the classroom in a meaningful way.

Always Responding.  In three of my parent conversations, parents expressed a frustration that the school district always seems to be responding to issues.  “We never seem to be out front on issues,” one parent said.  Several parents said they are uncertain about the district’s long term plans.

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