Subject: [xxx] IB in danger
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2007 21:13:51 +0000
The School Board is in the process of deciding whether or not the IB program will remain in the Pearland school district. There is talk that there isn't sufficient interest to continue the program. A group of people have come together to promote the IB curriculum and to convince the school board that IB is desired in PISD.The group is called Great Academics for Pearland (GAP) and the web address is www.greatacademics. org.
Come to the next meeting...
7:00pm December 17, 2007
We will look at the IB information presented at the Nov. 27, 2007 PISD School Board Workshop.
We will plan our strategy for a Grassroot to promote our GOALs
We meet in Conference Room D of the PISD ESC Annex Building, 2316 Old Alvin Rd
There will be a school board-parent chat at Alexander Middle School on Dec 18, 2007 from 7:00-8:30. Plan to attend if you'd like to make your thoughts known on the IB program.
OK, first for what I perceive to be a factual inaccuracy. It isn't clear to me what this group means when it says it "promote[s] the IB curriculum". Pearland ISD specifically denies that the IB-PYP is a specific curriculum.
Massey Ranch is pursuing the Primary Years Programme, which is a philosophy of teaching, not a specific program or curriculum. The PYP provides a framework based on best teaching practices for elementary school instruction. Every child on the campus will be a part of PYP as the students are taught to understand the inquiry process. PYP is designed using the “whole school approach”.
Quite frankly, I don't know what the International Baccalaureate-PYP is, but it certainly isn't a curriculum. There are several indecipherable phrases in this quote.
"Best Teaching Practices": My experience with Pearland ISD teachers tells me that they already employ outstanding teaching practices. Are Pearland ISD administrators implying that its teachers desperately need to improve their teaching practices? I know of no school, public or private, with better teachers and teaching practices than Pearland ISD.
IB-PYP students are taught to understand the "inquiry process". Again, I don't know what Pearland ISD administrators are trying to say here. I've got to believe that teachers in Pearland ISD have been impressing the importance of the inquiry process on their students for decades. Maybe I just hold teachers in Pearland ISD in higher regard.
What is the "whole school approach"? I've never claimed to be the sharpest tool in the shed, but this term sounds like education gobbledygook to me. I don't think I'd miss it if it didn't exist. I'm not sure I'd notice if it did exist.
Apparently, the concern about the IB Program in Pearland is its excessive cost. School districts around the country are facing questions about the cost of the IB Program. I've written about opposition over cost at Saginaw Township, Michigan, Glen Cove, New York and Corning - Painted Post, New York.
In my opinion, the "Great Academics in Pearland" group has self-contradictory goals and expectations at its website:
3) Encourage further development of the IB program in PISD.
4) Advocate open enrollment policy for advanced academic programs.
3. Adopt an “Excellence Track” in PISD: it should be available to students who desire this kind of academic challenge
4. The International Baccalaureate Program including all levels should be adopted and available to all Pearland ISD students
As I've mentioned several times before, the IB-PYP discourages (but does not prohibit) ability grouped advanced curriculum classes. Perhaps the "Great Academics in Pearland" group doesn't promote advanced academic programs prior to the 6th grade. That is the only explanation that can reconcile their support for advanced academic programs and an "Excellence Track" with their support for the IB. [During my discussions with Pearland ISD administrators, I asked a few questions about their intent at Jamison Middle School. Jamison is a 5-6 campus that straddles the IB-PYP and IB-MYP. I don't know a lot about the IB-MYP, but I was concerned that ability-grouped advanced-curriculum classes at the 5th grade level would be eliminated since 5th grade is covered by the IB-PYP. The answer I got was that the middle schools currently have such classes and that there "is no call to change that". That is not exactly comforting since there was no call to eliminate the accelerated class at Carleston Elementary, yet the academically rigorous classes were nevertheless eliminated.]
Representatives from Pearland ISD routinely refer to the "IB Curriculum". I'm not sure if this is sloppy language, if these people are not familiar with the IB Program or if they are trying to confuse the issue [the Diploma Program is equivalent to the existing and less costly AP Program -- the DP may be considered to have a curriculum, but the DP hasn't been implemented in Pearland]. Listen to a Pearland ISD Board Member refer to the "IB Curriculum" [Time: 10:18]:
For the past ten years, and likely longer, Carleston Elementary has had an advanced curriculum class. Beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, this ability grouped class has been eliminated. To be fair to Pearland ISD administrators, they deny any linkage between the IB-PYP's disdain for ability-grouped advanced-curriculum classes and the elimination of Carleston's accelerated class. A Pearland ISD administrator told me that the decision to eliminate these classes was made five years ago with parental input. The same Pearland ISD administrator discouraged me from seeking documentation regarding that decision. Ultimately, I decided it didn't matter. I had already been told that Pearland ISD would not reconsider its decision to eliminate the accelerated class. With a kid going to Pearland ISD, the stakes were too high to try to wait out Pearland ISD and simply hope they would reinstate the accelerated class. I had to get Junior Anti-Corruption in a school that valued academic rigor immediately, and Junior now attends a private school that does believe in accelerated academics.
I tend to use "ability-grouped classes", "[academically] advanced [curriculum] classes" and "accelerated classes" interchangeably. To me, ability grouping and advanced academics go hand-in-hand, although there is a distinction. Let's look at the possible combinations:
1. Ability-grouped classes AND Advanced curriculum classes. This is what Carleston Elementary had prior to the 2007-2008 school year. I advocate this arrangement. High ability children are the ones who can handle an advanced curriculum.
2. Ability-grouped classes WITHOUT Advanced curriculum. If you don't intend to challenge high ability kids with an advanced curriculum, why bother to segregate the high ability kids into a single class? I don't know any district that follows this model -- it is makes no sense.
3. Advanced curriculum classes WITHOUT Ability-grouping. While I wholeheartedly support an advanced curriculum, using an arbitrary and capricious method to populate an advanced curriculum class makes little sense. Some high-ability students would be excluded from the advanced class, and others who may not be able to handle the accelerated pace are placed in the class. I know of no district that uses this model, either.
4. No ability-grouping AND no advanced curriculum. This is the model at Carleston Elementary since the 2007-2008 school year. Both the "GT Cluster" class and the heterogeneous classes are in this category. The Texas Association for the Gited and Talented defines "cluster grouping" as a "grouping assignment for gifted students in the regular heterogeneous classroom. Typically, five or six gifted students with similar needs, abilities, or interests are 'clustered' in the same classroom, which allows the teacher to more efficiently differentiate assignments for a group of advanced learners rather than just one or two students." [Emphasis added] While there is nothing inconsistent about this model, my personal policy preference is to provide an advanced curriculum to high ability kids. This is the major philosophical difference I have with Pearland ISD.
In the Board Chat audio file above, a Pearland ISD Board Member says some parents inaccurately believe the IB Program is an "elite" program [Time 13:43]. I found that comment to be somewhat humorous. I don't think I hid the fact that I was opposed to the IB Program - PYP since it harms high ability students. During the course of my discussions with Pearland ISD administrators, I was on the receiving end of a few ad hominem attacks myself. One of the milder attacks occurred when a Pearland ISD administrator called me "elitist". You see how this works? There is a misconception that the IB Program is elitist. In the eyes of Pearland ISD administrators, though, opponents to the IB Program are the actual elitists.
The other night, Mrs. Anti-Corruption announced that she needed to run to Kroger for a few items. I watched kids and football, though not with equal intensity. When Mrs. Anti-Corruption came back, she told me that she had run into a parent of a 2006-2007 Carleston accelerated student at Palais Royal. (Went to Kroger, met a parent at Palais Royal. Welcome to my world.) Through some chit-chat, Mrs. Anti-Corruption figured out that this parent was a member of the rebellious coalition I mentioned in a previous post. The parent expressed interest in finding a better school for her child. Mrs. Anti-Corruption enumerated the virtues of Junior's school. Mrs. Anti-Corruption said that we sent Junior to spend a day at the private school before making a decision, and that day sealed our decision to withdraw Junior from Pearland ISD. This parent has expressed interest in trying a trial day at Junior's school. I don't think I can count this child as leaving Pearland ISD yet, but of the 21 kids in my son's 2006-2007 advanced class, at least six have either left (3), have decided to leave soon (2), or are considering it.
30%. When does Pearland ISD take action to stop the bleeding and reinstate advanced curriculum classes?