Thursday, February 18, 2010

Class Meeting 8: Wed Feb 17, 2010 Role Playing PBI BoE Meeting

Today, we started with a role-play activity in which students had to play the roles of Pro-PBI parents, Anti-PBI parents, Board of Education members, and Principals of a school district in an open Board of Education meeting debating whether or not to implement a Project Based Learning curriculum for the entire high school.

The Case: The Cranford city schools are experiencing a “flat line” on recent state mandated tests as well as growing dissatisfaction from an increasing number of parents about the type of direct instruction their children are receiving in the town’s only high school. The principal and vice principal are advocating for the introduction of project based instruction into the high school but this will take at least 2 years to fully adopt and will require extensive professional development of the existing staff (a majority of which were not fortunate to take PBI while they were pre-service teachers) and cost approximately $2000 per teacher per year. The public is split on this decision. On the one hand, everyone recognizes the flat lining of the test scores and there is absolutely no debate about that issue. Half of the public is siding with the principal and have done a great deal of homework on the issue. They have consulted with experts and they have their own opinion. Another group feels very strongly that PBI might be ill-advised and send the scores downward (this would hurt real estate values- the town is already under water).

ROLES: The Principal, Vice-Principal, Pro-PBI Parents, Anti-PBI Parents, Board of Education Members

Board of Education Responsibilities: The District is governed by a Board of Education consisting of seven members. The Board's power and duties include the authority to adopt, enforce, and monitor all policies for the management and governance of the District's schools. Board of Education members are guardians of the public trust. Through the policies they make, Board members are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of local public education. The Board serves as the advocate for educational excellence for the community's youth and puts those interests first. The policies Board of Educations make dictate the standards and philosphies by which schools are run and the criteria used to judge whether they are being run well.

The key responsibilities of the Board of Education are to:

Provide educational leadership to the school community it serves.

Create and maintain a vision and a mission for the District.

Hire and evaluate the Superintendent to whom is delegated all administrative responsibility and authority.

Establishes clear and measurable goals and evaluate results.

Adopt and evaluate policies.

Approve and adopt the School District's annual budget.

Involve the community in the life of the District.

Maintain open and honest communication.

The Schedule for Class Today

2:00-2:15pm Introduction of the Case

2:15-2:45pm Preparation for each role, working in groups (School administration, Pro-PBI Parents, Anti-PBI Parents, Board of Education members).

2:45-2:50pm Break

2:50-3:00pm Take positions in the class. Board of Education in the front. School Administration to the Board’s right. Classroom divided in half.

3:00-3:10pm School Administration’s opening remarks

Questions from the Board of Education

3:10-3:25pm Public Discussion (Q&A with Board and Administrators)

3:25-3:30pm Closing remarks by Board President.

Class Narrative:

First, students broke into their role-play group to discuss their roles and strategies for 30 minutes.

Then, it was time to enact the school board meeting. The following are the minutes of the meeting:

2:45 PM Started with statements from the Principal Yoon, Vice Principal Jimenez, and Vice Principal Skaggs. All principals supported a PBI-based curriculum, emphasizing that teacher support is paramount for student learning. And they are willing to take pay cuts to support this.

2:55 PM The floor opens up for the Board of Education Trustees to ask questions to the administrators, honing in on the issue of money and asking where it might come from?

VP Skaggs says that the technology will be implemented and paid for slowly over time, in which Board President Clapsaddle asks if students at the beginning of the switch to PBI will be at a disadvantage since they will not have the necessary technology.

Board member Banacka asks how long this it will take to see changes, and what they plan on doing to check in.

VP Skaggs mentions holding teachers accountable with check-ins.

Board member Christopherson asks for evidence that this works.

VP Jimenez shares the Hmelo-Silver et al. article. VP Skaggs says that they don’t have 100% evidence that this works, but the responsibility is there to make sure that students are excelling, not just barely passing.

Trustee Johnson asks what the administration will do if this doesn’t work in 2 years.

VP Skaggs answers that they have no plan, but will meet and plan when that happens.

Trustee Christopherson asks for alternative curriculum.

VP Skaggs answers that PBI is the best option.

Trustee Twining asks what will happen to students who are already doing fine. What will happen to them?

VP Skaggs answers that if students are excelling now with a direct teaching based curriculum will excel with PBI.

3:05 The meeting opens up for comment from the public.

Parent Kang asks how long this “PBI-thing” will take. Doesn’t want his child to be a guinea-pig in an experimental


VP Jimenez answers that this will take 2 years.

Parent Wu asks if PBI and Direct teach are mutually exclusive, or if they can have a balance of both.

VP Christopherson answers that there will be a balance of both, even though they will be moving towards PBI.

VP Yoon answers that the change will be gradual.

Parent Evan states that for 2-years, to run an experimental program, when things are working fine.

VP Jimenez answers that this thinking will block any change or programs to implement.

Board President Clapsaddle answers that PBL has been proven to work within the medical profession.

Parent High states research that only 50% of medical schools in this country have adopted a PBL framework, and that many studies do NOT show test scores improving.

VP Skaggs answers that it’s not just about test scores improving, but also about knowledge improving.

VP Christopherson agrees that research has shown that PBL doesn’t work, pulling out the Kirschner et al. article. He also brings up the fact that medical studies show that PBL actually hurts residency acceptances rates, which could be akin to college acceptance rates.

Board President Clapsaddle says that comparing our students to medical students is not correct, we want to instill the same engagement and motivation in our students that medical students usually have.

Parent Phillips says that PBI will engage students and get them more excited to actually attend school.

Parent Emerson expresses concern that this program doesn’t have a definitive timeline, and will be an irresponsible use of resources. Students are doing fine, so why change things. Program sounds like it works, but doesn’t feel that it will work in our school.

VP Jimenez says that they don’t expect to do away with Direct Instruction, will not be a total shift, but Direct Instruction is still a part of PBI.

Professor Petrosino asks about Cognitive Load, won’t PBI overload our students?

Trustees Banacka and Board President Clapsaddle answers that scaffolding will help support and guide students within PBI structure in order to reduce Cognitive Load.

Trustee Banacka asks parent Emerson, “I know you’re concerned about your child, what about your grandchild?”

Emerson answers back, “Yes. I applaud the program. But I can’t worry about the future if I’m worried about the present.”

Parent Wu shares that her daughter does well in school but is not excited about school. Hopes that PBI will help her daughter finally become excited about school.

Parent Colasanti reads a quote from the Kirschner et al. article about cognitive load, students have trouble learning when overloaded.

Board President answers back with Hmelo-Silver’s article that Kirschner’s quote is not really about PBL.

Parent High specifically asks administrators how much money they will be willing to take, will it be enough among three of them? And won’t funding be cut if TAKS scores go down. And, which criteria was used to choose PBI?

VP Jimenez answers that Formative Assessment is a part of PBI and will ensure a form of internal check-in of students.

Professor Delgado shares that he does projects also, by building volcanoes and kids love it.

Professor Petrosino shares that his students love launching rockets and smile all the time.

VP Skaggs answers that PBL is more than just doing a project, it involves driving questions, etc.

Parent Tutuianu expresses concern about ability to get into college if his scores are low. Her concern is while her son enjoys learning, will the projects help with college acceptance? (Implies how will PBI help on their SAT scores?)

VP Skaggs answers that it’s more than just knowledge. That will be a part of the PBL curriculum, so student will learn all content through PBL.

Professor Petrosino then ends the role-play activity, saying they will follow up with it on Monday.

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