May
28th 2010
Adams 50 and SBS: Balancing the Equation with Some Parents’ Serious Concerns

Posted under Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & learning & Middle School & Parents & PPC & School Accountability & School Board & Suburban Schools

Not too long ago I wrote about my Education Policy Center friends’ visit to Adams School District 50 for the Standards-Based Education tour. Some seem to have taken the posting as an unqualified enthusiastic endorsement of the district’s SBS program, or maybe they thought I was being too one-sided and generous with praise.

The intent was to provide a descriptive summary of what my friends saw from the official tour. Okay, though, I own up for not making it clearer, and maybe I gave the district too much benefit of the doubt. But that’s also what happens when my friends let a 5-year-old do their blogging for them. (Not that I don’t like doing it, I’m just saying….)

Anyway, a few facts are plain: 1) Adams 50′s SBS system is new and untested. 2) Buy-in from schools and teachers certainly isn’t universal across the district, and implementation has been rough — at least at times. 3) Test results so far haven’t been encouraging.

Some people out there from Westminster challenged my statement that SBS should be given a couple more years to see if it succeeds, including parent and community member Sharon Rahne. Based on her son’s middle school experience, her interactions with administrators and school board members, and on hearing the experiences of fellow parents and community members, she has identified some additional problems, including the following:

  • Insufficient accountability for teachers and principals to get results in advancing students through the performance levels
  • At least at one school site, weeks worth of time wasted at the beginning and end of the school year
  • Substitute teachers, unfamiliar with the SBS approach, supervising activities that do nothing to advance learning
  • Insufficient district communication to parents (especially to the many non-English-speaking families) about problems with the system that need to be addressed and fixed

I want to be clear I’m still not coming to any conclusions on one side or the other, nor do I want to get entangled in internal district politics. Nevertheless, many of the concerns Mrs. Rahne has raised are serious and should be addressed. To her credit, even though her son is moving on to an area charter high school, she has expressed her desire to stay engaged with District 50 on behalf of friends and neighbors.

As I see it, the issue boils down to how much time should district leaders be given to prove some successful results for SBS. That is ultimately a question for parents and community members to decide. While there definitely are some hopeful signs, there also are some serious valid concerns with implementation and vital gaps to bridge with the community. For the sake of the kids, I hope they all figure it out correctly soon.

If any other school districts the size of Adams 50 decide to pursue SBS in the near future — which in large part will depend on how things play out in the suburban Denver district — they certainly will find important lessons to be learned from this whole scenario.

2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Adams 50 and SBS: Balancing the Equation with Some Parents’ Serious Concerns”

  1. lourie on 01 Jun 2010 at 3:14 pm #

    My children was involvd in the sbs and my problem with this is my 5th grader never moved forward in his reading/writting i was told that he just needed to test on his areas and he could move forward. we(as his parents) incouraged this verry much so. But he never did advance in his levels know going into 6th grade he is still reading and writting at a high level 2nd grade low level 3rd grade and we dont hold our students back is what i was told for the last 3 years… no child left behind????
    As far as his math goes the teacher only had a total of 15 min the whole year to speak with us. my experiance has been pretty crapy here. Going into the school year he tested at a high 5th grade at the end of the year he was a low 4th grade what is really going on here???

  2. Ed is Watching » Innovation Alert: Glenwood Springs Schools and Students “Moving On” Up? on 28 Feb 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    [...] Roaring Fork isn’t the first school district in Colorado to the gate. Westminster District 50 just outside Denver is in its second full year with its learner-centered SBS program in place. While I did have a few nice things to say about it after my Education Policy Center friends took the tour last May, I later raised some significant concerns about the implementation. [...]

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