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September 16th, 2008
Hays CISD news briefs – 09/16/08

Curriculum tops School Board meeting discussion

The Hays CISD Board of Trustees on Monday heard from 13 parents, teachers and administrators regarding the district’s implementation of CSCOPE, a curriculum subscription cooperative through the Region XIII Education Service Center.

While comments hit on a variety of topics and opinions, one common sentiment surfaced: Change is hard.

“As teachers, you want to do everything that is expected,” said Cynthia Davis, Principal of Blanco Vista Elementary School. Mrs. Davis urged fellow educators to face their fears about change, communicate and use the resources “to allow all children to be successful.”

Prior to the public hearing, Dr. Ervin Knezek, Deputy Executive Director of Region XIII Education Service Center, presented an overview of the “roadmap” for the district to carry out the curriculum, providing vertical articulation and specificity across all grade levels.

“These are the right battles to have,” he said. “You are talking about learning, kids and the standards. The issue is the implementation, particularly when you’re asking someone to change what she’s done in the past. It’s about building on your teaching core, the best of your resources.”

He attempted to clear up some confusion regarding the implementation of CSCOPE and its relationship with other curriculum resources, particularly at the elementary level regarding math.

“No program or textbook stands alone,” Dr. Knezek said. “No single resource meets the needs of all kids. Ultimately it’s not what’s in the system, it’s about how the system is being used. The resource may help kids get to the standard, but ultimately the conversation is, ‘are we watching kids develop these concepts to the cognitive level of the standards?'”

Dr. Kirk London, Superintendent of Hays CISD, emphasized that CSCOPE requires multiple strategies and resources and does not eliminate the traditional methods of teaching math.

Dr. Knezek described the “tension between autonomy in the classroom and what the district dictates” as the difference between a focus on instruction and not the curriculum.

“If the discussion is only on the resource, then we’ve lost the district curriculum,” he said.

Knezek admitted that the pressure is greater on the elementary teachers than the secondary teachers because there were two very different roll-outs in terms of the way CSCOPE was introduced.

“We need to be looking at where are we negotiable and non-negotiable?” he said. “How do you take the learning experience from the teachers who are highly successful with students and duplicate it for every campus? Those teachers who have success with certain groups of kids, how do you do that with all of the kids?”

Dr. Knezek served as the Hays CISD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“Hays is way ahead now than when I left here,” he said. “We were trying to gather resources. We didn’t have math manipulatives. We didn’t have computers. We spent a lot of time trying to get the tools of instruction. We exhausted our energy and resources in aligning the standards, not in aligning our resources to the standards.”

Dr. Knezek noted that the growth in the district is “exponential” from the “fast-growth” days when he worked for Hays CISD. “So you need the systems of stability for new kids and new teachers and to provide support for your best teachers. The oral history can’t sustain excellent educational experiences for every student any longer.”

“This is an important conversation,” said Chip DuPont. “I think you’ve seen tonight that we’re respectful of your views, of the professionalism you bring to your classrooms and we’re trying to find the best way to do what’s right for our students.”

“We’re not saying we’re not going to teach philosophy of math,” said Patti Wood, Vice President of the Hays CISD School Board. ” What we’re saying is that is not the only thing we’re going to teach. We’re saying we support those programs absolutely. You have to be able to differentiate instruction for your kids and that is what we’ve been trying to do in this district for a long time.”

“It seems that what we’re talking about here does not have to be mutually exclusive,” said Dr. Henry Altmiller, member of the School Board. “CSCOPE seems to be some sort of outline. It is not supposed to be a device that teaches the mechanics of teaching mathematics.”

“I hope that tonight will help everyone understand each other a little better,” said Ralph Pfluger, member of the School Board. “There’s not a real logical way to measure what we’re doing. We had campuses doing whatever they wanted to do. I don’t fully understand CSCOPE, but if it can join us all together in the best way to lead a student into the 12th Grade so he will be successful, isn’t that what we’re looking for?”

Pfluger noted the dramatic increase, across the board, in performance in math and science TAKS scores at the middle school level, which embraced CSCOPE this past year.

The School Board unanimously approved modifications to the construction documents of the district’s fifth middle school to accommodate a slightly different program.

“We are making plans for implementation of a different programming and staffing at this school,” Dr. London said. “This school will have a large number of economically disadvantaged students. We are really going to put our resources in this school. We need to provide for these kiddos.”

The School Board also unanimously approved a resolution recognizing the 4-H Organization of Hays County as a Hays CISD extracurricular activity. This means that the 125 students involved in 4-H will not be counted absent when they are not in attendance to participate in 4-H activities under the supervision of a Hays County extension agent.

From JULIE JEROME
Chief Information Officer – Hays CISD

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