Notes from Liberty Park Middle Curriculum Information Meeting
- 2017 May 18, 8:30am
- Prepared by: Kimberly Cook
[These notes are my personal notes and paraphrase of comments made at the meeting. I also recorded the meeting, so if anyone has particular questions about the discussion, you can inquire.]
Elective Courses Overview:
- 2008-2009: offered Art, Band, Choir, Spanish
- 2016-2017: added Family and Consumer Science
Note: Career Prep A / Digital Photography were offered in 2016-2017, but they did not have success in getting enough students enrolled–2 or 3 at most—so the class did not “make.”
- 2017-2018: French, German and Coding were added to course offerings.
- LPM will continue to offer these courses each year; at some point, we hope they will have enough numbers to “make” the course.
Roger Dobnikar, LPM Asst. Principal: LPM contacted Central Office with the numbers that signed up for French and German and they were instructed to let those parents know that, due to the number who signed up, these courses will only be offered online with a person in the room with them (facilitator), but not with an actual teacher of the language. Parents were offered the option to drop back to their child’s second option. That is why those parents received a letter.
For Coding, there was not a second option, so parents did not receive a letter; the school automatically went to the second option on the student’s course card.
Dobnikar reviewed the process used for choosing electives:
- Current 6th and 7th grade students went over course cards in a meeting on May 1 and Mr. Dobnikar explained options for electives.
- Parent and student signatures are required on the card.
- For 7th and 8th grade, course descriptions sent home and posted on website so conversation could continue at home.
- Courses were explained in a video and in meetings with students.
Q: Many students chose Robotics as their first choice for Lancer Period; how many slots will be made available for the club?
A: Everyone should be able to get their first choice; the school will expand the opportunity to meet the need
Q:[Jennifer Weaver] Could you address the advantages of taking some of the electives?
A: Discussion ensued regarding foreign languages:
- The middle school foreign language program takes one year (Level I) and divides it into a two-year program
- Taking the Level I course in middle school allows students to start Level II foreign language in 9th grade; it also opens another slot in grades 9-12 to take another elective course
- Students do not receive a Carnegie unit for the middle school Level I course, but it prepares them for Level II in grades 9-12 and gives them a headstart in that foreign language
Q: [Stacy Hurst] How will scheduling be handled when 8th and 9th grade are together, with the 8th grade 7-period schedule and the 9th grade 8-period schedule?
A: [Jane-Marie Marlin, Asst. Superintendent] These are long-term decisions we are not prepared to make right now.
Q: What will the schedule be like for 9th grade in Fall 2019?
A: [Marlin] Students would have the same schedule as what is in other high school grades; can’t answer about how 7th-8th grade schedules will change at this time.
Q: Why can’t students be allowed two electives, instead of just one?
A: [Marlin] This option was carefully considered (“explored deeply”) in the task force that studied middle school scheduling earlier this year. The group concluded this would create a more stressful environment for students, having an additional graded course.
Q: [Sarah Brown] What are the advantages of taking Career Prep A in middle school?
A: [Marlin] Career Prep A is required by the state for graduation; A is computer skills-based and B centers on financial literacy. There is some discussion that, with offering Career Prep A in middle school, Career Prep B may be embedded in another subject in 9th-12th.
Career Prep A and B are offered in summer school also, but there is a fee. Rising 9th grade students are eligible to take summer school courses this summer.
A parent pointed out that if someone starts a foreign language in 7th grade, they can’t take Career Prep A in 8th grade.
Q: Why is Career Prep A paired with Digital Photography?
A: [Dobnikar] Digital Photography was the only semester course that was an option to pair with Career Prep A.
Q: What if a student wants Career Prep A and 3D Art?
A: [Dobnikar] We would not have the teacher availability to do both.
Mr. Munger discussed how the goal of the VHHS 8-period day change was to eliminate the need to take summer courses and provide more flexibility and opportunity for elective courses.
A parent suggested it would be helpful to invite parents of students in lower grades to participate in curriculum nights at VHHS so parents and students can have a better understanding of how early curriculum choices in middle school can affect their path in high school.
A parent encouraged people to sign up for daily email blasts from VHHS to start receiving important information about summer school, etc.
Q: [Weaver] Would offering foreign language (first year) to 8th grade help LPM achieve the numbers needed to “make” a course? Jennifer encouraged the central office to look at numbers from a different perspective and provide opportunities for students, even though the numbers are lower at LPM.
Q: [Stacy Hurst] It was stated a student cannot change languages in middle school or take a first-year middle school foreign language course in 8th grade; why?
A: [Brooke Izurieta, LPM Spanish teacher] explained you need both years to qualify for the next language level in high school. She explained that first-year language in middle school is an introduction, whereas the second year is more reading and writing.
Discussion ensued about the value of taking a language course to “try it out” before committing to a long-term course of study in that language.
Q: LPM has less than half the number of students compared to Pizitz Middle. If 15 is the number required to “make” a course, shouldn’t the board consider offering the class to LPM students at a lower threshold, to compensate for the lower student enrollment at LPM?
A: [Marlin] The online foreign language delivery method was never was just going to be about sitting in front of a screen. She discussed a “blended” experience, perhaps with some high school students coming in to assist.
A parent commented that online vs. live teacher is obviously a very different experience.
Q: Can we offer a unified arts approach for language? [rotating through various languages]
A: [Kacy Pierce, LPM Principal] We currently don’t have the teachers for that.
Q: [Joanna Rumbley] What is it going to take to get French/German off the ground? Students are staying away from foreign language because they heard it was going to be a video. In order to achieve equity, both schools need to be treated as one student body, both in Fall 2019 and now. The LPM community pays the same tax dollars as everyone else, but we are not being provided the courses. [applause]
Marlin said it is the intent, when 9th grade is added, that courses will be held to the same standards. If it is a Carnegie Unit course, we absolutely will offer it.
Q: Then, why is there currently a different analysis for LPM compared to PM [in regard to numbers in a class]?
A: [Marlin] Whatever we currently have at the high school we will have in Fall 2019.
Kimberly Cook made the statement that obviously students/parents do not consider an online course to be equivalent or of the same value as a foreign language taught with a teacher in classroom. You can see that from the way the enrollment numbers dropped from 6 to 2 and from 5 to 1 in French and German when parents were notified the class would be online.
A: [Marlin] Once we have all the changes in, the board will revisit the decision.
Q: What about the rotating schedule?
A: It is the desire of the faculty to continue the practice because it is best for students. This creates potential problems with teacher-sharing. [My observation: It will be difficult to teacher-share unless the schedules are identical.]
Marlin said they would have to be creative in designing the 9th grade schedules.
Q: Is there a plan in place to choose the people who will administrate the change?
Q: What will happen with the handful of students who take French/German using the online program in the first year if we add a teacher for second year?
A: They will transfer to the live teacher.
Kimberly Cook encouraged parents and students to make their elective choice, before the change deadline, with the assumption that the foreign language class would be offered by a teacher in the classroom. This is the only way to ensure that the board can properly assess the level of interest. She asked that this be communicated to parents and students by the school. Mr. Dobnikar indicated it would be shared.