Home > Uncategorized > Red Clay’s Article 23 committees

Red Clay’s Article 23 committees

May 25, 2013

I always got the feeling that when it came to policy development, parent involvement in Red Clay is mostly window dressing. It seems like the issues brought before the official parent involvement committees have already been decided, and they are just quickly running it by the parents to get their parent engagement ticket punched. Rarely does a meaningful discussion break out or a vote taken. And the issues presented never seem to touch the instructional policies at the heart of the classroom.

But now I am starting to understand why that is. And the explanation was found in the last place I expected – the RCEA contract (the Red Clay teacher’s union). I mean I was really surprised.

Now bear with me because we are getting into the weeds here. Red Clay has four committees in particular that deal with core classroom issues:

Discipline Committee
Grade Reporting and Procedures Committee
Special Education Committee
Technology Committee

These are the kinds of issues parents want to be involved in, right? I know I do. But don’t go looking for information about these committees on the Red Clay website, and don’t expect to see the meeting information posted in advance. For information about these committees, you have to read the RCEA contract (Article 23). And the first thing it says is:

Each committee shall have a maximum of five (5) representatives appointed by the Superintendent and five (5) representatives appointed by the Association President.

See something missing? No parents. Membership is contractually capped, so parents are de facto locked out of representation on these critical committees. Unless that is, you can persuade the union or the superintendent to use one or more of their five picks to put parents on the committees.

(click to enlarge)

The committees and their responsibilities are poorly defined by the contract language, and aren’t defined at all on the Red Clay website. But among other responsibilities, I am pretty sure these committees have advisory input into the policy development process. These committees are the kitchens where the early creative work of policy development takes place and policies are drafted, with root causes discussed, and different approaches considered and batted around. And parents don’t have a seat at the table.

Parent representation would be great, but we all know of committees where handpicked parents are appointed and you never hear from them again. So in addition to parent representation, we need transparency. These four committees are open meetings covered by FOIA, but the district has not been compliant by posting meeting schedules, agendas, or minutes. Even if parents aren’t on the committees, they are at least open meetings and parents should be notified of the time, location, and agenda.

So far I don’t think this is a dark comspiracy to deny parent involvement – it just looks like one. Having first considered malice, now I must consider the alternative explanation. The contract language looks like it was there forever and hasn’t really been reviewed lately. I contacted the District and RCEA, Both committed to review the issue amd get back to me later. To be fair, this is a busy time of year for them. I’ll wait.

Board Policy 9002 – Parental Involvement states:

The expectation set in place by this policy is that the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education (“Board”) will actively involve parents in the joint development of the District’s parental involvement policies, programs, and activities. This policy must be applied in all instances of District operation. All employees are expected to comply with this policy. If this policy is not implemented, the fundamental concepts of the District’s mission may not be accomplished.

The policy also goes on to state:

This policy is needed to satisfy the requirements of Section 1118(a)(2) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which requires school districts receiving Title I funds to develop for the district a written parental involvement policy that establishes the district’s expectations and specifically describes how the district will meet the required components of the policy.

At this time of year when Red Clay is annually reviewing and resubmitting its Consolidated Grant application, this might be a good time to open up transparency and boast that parents now have a seat at the table on these core advisory committees.

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  1. May 25, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Although I may not be a dark conspiracy,it may be a bright one. In any research and development operation, whether governmental, corporate, or familial, it is important first that something gets generated by those committed to getting something done. I can see the fear where putting a parent into the equation too early in the process, could create a situation where wrangling over the tiniest matters could forestall any successful outcome.

    Strictly speaking from a pragmatic point of view, perhaps it is better if a parent-free committee comes up with a plan, that is then put before a review of parents, who can then, only after it has been solidified in policy form, can pass, or veto, or offer amendments.

    In that regard it is very similar to our legislative process. One person who could be bizarre or normal, concocts a bill, and from there, he must push it through a series of reviews. If that person was hobbled with political arch enemy in the dawn of the creative process, there is a good chance very few accomplishments would get done, and progress as far as the review process…..

    So, maybe what you pointed out, is not such a bad idea after all? As to how this applies to the creation of Common Core, for instance, it is not that I have a problem with the method of it’s conception, .. it is the sneaking off into dark corners and hidden places to perform the birth and delivery… Once created, Common Core as well as the policies of Red Clay, need debate and time for all parties to point out their concerns.

  2. May 25, 2013 at 11:39 am

    (second word was “it”, not I. Somehow that got past the editor.)..

  3. May 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

    As GWB said, his job would be a lot easier if this were a dictatorship.

    If I had to choose between parent representation and transparency, I’d take transparency. We have already resolved the “fear” issue by requiring these kinds of meetings to be open meetings across the state. Officials in Delaware will have to overcome the fear of open meetings and arrange their processes to deal with FOIA. We don’t have to re-litigate it – it’s a matter of compliance.

    Then of course there is the Boards’s own policy that will “actively involve parents in the joint development of the District’s parental involvement policies, programs, and activities.” as part of their Title 1 obligations.

  4. kilroysdelaware
    May 27, 2013 at 7:42 am

    Reblogged this on Kilroy's delaware.

  5. DE Teacher
    May 27, 2013 at 9:25 am

    As a teacher, I am confused by the amount of involvement that some parents and people in the community seek. Having your voices heard in some matters concerning the use of taxes for things like new construction seem reasonable, but I don’t understand the rationale that parents and the community should be allowed into the inner workings of all aspects of a school district. The word transparency is thrown around a lot on this blog and others.

    Frankly, I am disturbed when parents believe they know what is best for the school, that is, unless they are educators as well. Having a child and having gone through school does not mean one knows what teachers should be doing. Likewise, reading up on the latest reviews of best educational practices would not make one a great teacher. Reading about and being an actual teacher are two different things.

    Common Core will not be the political decision that makes me change professions, but it is an example of others making decisions for teachers by people who are not teachers. There is plenty of wiggle room, and I will figure out the best ways to engage children and excite them about learning. These standards will not crush me. I know what is best. I have taught for twenty years.

    But I shake my head in amazement when I read people on these blogs who say they deserve to have a say in what I do in my classroom, for example, grading policies. Really? Someone wants to dictate how much homework I give or don’t give, when it is due, and what the penalties are for lates? What about discipline? Come sit in my class for a week. Better yet, take over my class for a few days. Talk to me then.

    I am not on an explosive, angry rant. Really. I just want people to know that I work so hard to do my job. I want nothing more than to see all my students succeed. There are no students that I hate, and yet I feel demonized by those who have never taught.

    If you want to know if I walk the walk, let me tell you how I deal with my now high school daughter. She has a teacher who won’t give her a make up assignment because she was absent. She has a B in the class. Did my daughter not ask for it soon enough? Is the teacher a jerk? I don’t know. That’s my daughter’s problem. Middle school? This teacher won’t… He’s so mean? I forgot my work at school…. The other kids…. All her problem. We look at her grades on line almost daily. They are her grades.

    I am amazed when parents or others quibble over how much certain assignments are worth. Mathematically, if every assignment is handed in on-time and done reasonably well, what each assignment is worth will not matter.

    Ok… now I am getting off topic. Just know that most teachers care very much about the children. Most teachers work very hard. Most teachers are not out to swindle the tax payers. Most teachers just want to know that they are respected and supported.

  6. May 27, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Some public employees have trouble adjusting to FOIA, but it is the law. Parents might not take advantage of all the open meetings, but they must be published in advance and they must be open. Some educators just can’t believe it, running for their superiors and lawyers when I point it out. But we’re not going to relitigate FOIA.

    I think even you know you are speaking from a massive sense of entitlement. These are our children you are talking about. The school system doesn’t exist just to employ you and make your job easier (although I’m in favor of making your job easier where it makes sense). It’s amazing how educators will resist making their jobs easier, if the idea comes from a parent.

    These four committees have been treated as a closed playground for the union and the district for too long. It’s time to open the gates. I am still willing to concede the blockage isn’t deliberate – it’s a combination of “the way we’ve always done things” along with that cultural sense of entitlement. But depending on how much resistance I encounter, I may change my mind about the motiviation.

    As a teacher you know as well as I do that not every viewpoint is represented in these committees, and politics rules the day. For example, I have been tracking the AWOL Homework Pollicy for years. Don’t kid yourself; I have plenty of ideas I would like to share, and some I would like to avoid like the plague. . It turns out the Grade Reporting committee is working on it behind closed doors, but I can’t find one single draft document after the Grade Reporting committee has been working on homework and grading practices for over a year.

    And you know the same individuals have been on the Grade Reporting Committee for like forever, so where is the new thinking supposed to come from?

  7. May 27, 2013 at 10:35 am

    She has a teacher who won’t give her a make up assignment because she was absent. She has a B in the class. Did my daughter not ask for it soon enough?

    @DEteacher -The Code of Conduct spells out exactly how long the student has to initiate arrangements for making up the work after an absence, and states that the teacher MUST assist her in making it up, but only if she makes the deadline for asking. The time to initiate arrangements is frightfully short though, and too many teachers, according to their sense of entitlement, let the time pass and then just stamp the assignment “zero” – it’s much easier that way. Apparently too many students are not mature enough to assert their own rights, and teachers take advantage of their immaturity. The rule should be revised to lengthen the time and to require pro-active assistance by the school.

    This situation is a dilemma for your daughter who is a good student with parental support. Just stop and think how it looks for a C or D student with little parental support. That student has an expectation of failure and isn’t helped by being told some fine-print deadline has passed.

    On the other hand, as I have said repeatedly, individual teachers are always the bright spot, and there are always some who will go above the minimum requirements in the rulebook.

  8. A Delaware Teacher
    May 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    “The time to initiate arrangements is frightfully short though, and too many teachers, according to their sense of entitlement, let the time pass and then just stamp the assignment “zero” – it’s much easier that way. ”

    “That student has an expectation of failure and isn’t helped by being told some fine-print deadline has passed.”

    If this is truly your view of educators, then I am not sure I could ever convince you otherwise. Throughout my whole education, from childhood through undergraduate and graduate with a masters, it was always my responsibility to do what was asked of me. My grades were my grades, not because of some ability I possessed, but a result of the ability I demonstrated. I jumped through the required hoops and attained the degrees I needed.

    I struggled with some teachers and professors. Some I didn’t like, and some didn’t like me. But at the end of the semester, my grade was my grade. I earned it. And if I didn’t earn it, there were consequences when I was young from my parents. But when I got older, there were consequences for myself: I did not measure up to their expectations- no degree, no pay, loose of a job.

    Teachers set up expectations. Students are expected to meet them. Most students do. I do not feel I have entitlement, but I do wish I were respected for the knowledge of teaching that I possess. I know am not God.

    I feel I am more like the machine at a bowling ally: I set up the pins and ask the students to knock them down. Once they roll, I count the pins and give a score.

    Some students don’t even roll the ball.

    As far as an expectation of failure… Sure, I do expect some students to fail. That doesn’t mean I am happy about it. That doesn’t mean I won’t help students to pass. But I will not roll the ball for them. I will not steer the ball down the ally. And I certainly won’t give them a high score simply because they are supposed to get a high score based on their ability. Roll the ball and get the score.

    School is basic training for life. If a child can make it through 12 gradual years of increasing difficulty, then he will be almost ready for life. I think of basic training for the military. They expect men and women to fail. Those that fail are not ready to defend our country. They are the best of the best. I am glad.

  9. May 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    If this is truly your view of educators, then I am not sure I could ever convince you otherwise.

    Sure you can – show me the data. Failure isn’t some gray thing. The mechanics of failure, exactly how it happens, are recorded in daly classroom activities recorded in eSchoolPLUS. Anyone who cares enough and is authorized to access the data, can dig in and find the exact day the student gave up, what assignments they missed, what lesson they did not learn, and how that caused them to fail the next test and the next – and they they were off to the races of failure. It can be traced back to the specific teacher who didn’t ring the alarm that day to begin intervention.

  10. May 27, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    And I wouldn’t be too quick to boast of twenty years of teaching during an era which is widely perceived to be a period of decline in Delaware education. Especially if you were in leadership positions during that time. I think your approach of education as a morality play is old-guard stuff and amounts to educators shirking their responsibilty to educate, and hiding behind minor children. Educators need to take a great deal more responsibility to make sure students learn, and the public needs to give you the resources.

    Note I don’t necessarily mean individual teachers, I mean the District system and policies. It’s not your fault except to the extent you had a hand in shaping that system… The moral-drama approach to learning needs to be rethought, and in fact has been rethought with progressive approaches such as Dickinson’s NGTA and 5th Block.

  11. May 27, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I need to pull back a little bit in this discussion with DE Teacher. In my mind I am arguing with an idea, but I forget I am arguing with a real person. I didn’t mean to verge so close to the personal, because DE Teacher didn’t deserve that; he/she is sincerely trying to share. I actually need to hear more viewpoints like his/hers because that viewpoint will be well represented in policy development and I will need to find common ground.

    Notice I haven’t yet posted much on what I actually think should be in a grading policy or any of the other policies. That post is coming later. I’ve spent all my energy so far just figuring out how policy development really works, establishing my right to have a voice, and finding out what the district has done so far.

    Wednesday at the SuperPAC meeting, I’ll fiind out what the District wants parents to know. When I get hold of the Grade Reporting minutes, then I”ll know what the members are telling each other. And when the meeting times are published, then I’ll be able to hear it myself.

  12. A Delaware Teacher
    May 27, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    “I think your approach of education as a morality play is old-guard stuff and amounts to educators shirking their responsibilty to educate, and hiding behind minor children.”

    I will continue to follow your blog, but your view of education is jaded. I am sure you mean well, but the things you say speak more of your distrust of the system than they express a desire to help.

    Teachers cannot force students to learn. I really do not know how someone can even think that a teacher could just look in the online grades and see where a student gives up, then through some amazing educational magic address that child and force them to perform.

    Helping students to do their homework is admirable. Creating a time after school for students to do their homework would be great. We do see a need in some situations. But carving out time in school the force students to do their work is sad. You can lead a horse to water…

    Every child in America is offered a chance to be educated. I will help every child who wants to succeed. I have many who do succeed.

    Please don’t be hurtful with your comments. I have never felt so demoralized as a teacher as I have this year. I went into the profession to help the children, but as I read your comments and others, I feel like most people do not appreciate my dedication and my earnest desire to contribute to society.

    Please remember that I am not the perfect teacher, the Superman that educational reform seems to believe exists. I am a parent of two children. My spouse and I went to public school, and our children both go to public schools. My spouse and I are both public school teachers. Up until this year, I never felt like I earned money for my job. I used to wake up and be excited to go to school. The paycheck was something I just got. Really.

    I have survived this year, one day at a time. My students aren’t data points. My students aren’t a product. Each one is as imperfect as I am. Each day, believe it or not, I teach because I care about the students as children.

    As you said above, please remember that I am a person.

    Thank you.

  13. May 27, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    If it makes you feel any better, twenty-year burnout is pretty common in every profession. It sucks for everyone, not just teachers.

    No I don’ t think teachers can perform advanced data analysis on classroom data. They aren’t given the access even if they had the tools and the knowhow. But teachers should not pooh-pooh the idea and should advocate it to those who do have the ability. My point was that failure is not a mystery; it can be located.

    There is a shockingly simple reason why students fail – it’s because their grades aren’t high enough. I”m not being facetious. DCAS scores be damned, it’s grades that gets you from one year to the next. A student who fails a test or botches a homework is telling you that he needs more help to learn he lesson.

    Maybe the lesson needs to be retaught and the test taken over. It may also be that you don’t have the resources to do that. But that doesn’t justify promoting a theory that failing is pedagogically better than giving the student extra support, or that not learning the lesson somehow promotes character. Ask for the resources! Tell the parents you asked for the resources but the mean District won’t give them to you! Anything but telling them it is better not to provide extra support.

    What I’m hearing is kind of like the fable of the sour grapes: “I don’t have the resources to help that student succeed – oh well, failure is better for him anyway.”

    It is blindingly obvious to me at least it is better to retake the lesson and learn it, rather than any character enhancement the student may get from failing on the first try.

    Just like the Dickinson team asked on their (job’s) deathbeds: “Do we really care if the students learn the lesson ON THAT DAY? Or can we wait a little while to make sure he actually learns it?” And they found that yes, they could wait, and they found a way to provide the extra support.

  14. A Delaware Teacher
    May 28, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Well said. 🙂

  15. May 28, 2013 at 7:07 am

    By the way, if you still want me to spend time in your classroom to see how tough it is, I think I’m available in July 🙂

    Just kidding. Teaching (and sales) is one of those jobs I probably couldn’t do. When I was an English major everyone asked me “Oh… what are you going to do, teach?” and I said “What are you, nuts?”

  1. May 27, 2013 at 10:37 am
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