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Building A Bridge to 21st Century Education

This is the first in a series of communications that will  help to bridge the gap between the schools we attended and the schools that will prepare your child for their future.

I have had wonderful opportunities to speak with many parents about the work we are doing in the district.  Thank you to all who have shared ideas and resources for us to better communicate this work. I know it can be a bit difficult to wrap our minds around some of these changes, especially if we have not been able to take a tour to see the STEAM Centers in action.  One thing that can help process this change is to look at what has actually stayed the same.  Many times, change can feel very overwhelming and intangible, so when we can focus on what has stayed the same, we start to see the places where changes actually fit within a context that is more understandable.


Below are a few things that really haven’t changed (that much) for your child:

High Quality Educators:  Your child has the opportunity to work with the best educators in the business.  They have spent countless hours preparing for the work at the STEAM Centers. They spent last school year working with Creative Change Educational Solutions, Inc., to learn about Project-Based Learning (PBL) and how to PBL helps learners "tell their story" as they solve problems that can improve their lives.  They spent the summer working together to develop units that contain the state standards we are required to teach. They looked at how the standards in each core area (Math, English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science) worked with standards across the core areas. They identified standards that are best taught together (for example Science and Social Studies standards that are connected).  We know that we all learn information when it is connected in a context. This is what our educators have been working on for almost two years now. For more information on Creative Change Educational Solutions, please visit their website at http://creativechange.net/

Teaming:  Teaming came to the middle school level in the late 1990s.  Your child has been working with a team of teachers. That is no different this year.  Your child has been assigned to a teaching team. This team monitors the learning of every child on a weekly basis.
This information is shared with the mentors so that everyone is aware of where your child is at as it relates to his or her learning.


Curriculum:  The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or program. This includes the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, including learning standards and objectives,  units and lessons, assignments and projects given to students, materials and readings used in a course, and the assessments used to evaluate learning. The facilitators are using the same standards and objectives that have been used for years.  The materials are consistent to those used for 7th and 8th grade education, again based on required state standards and learning objectives. All educators in the district have been trained in Direct Interactive Instruction (DII) -- a process where educators focus on standards and objectives, proactive classroom management, planning and preparation and learner engagement.  The facilitators working with your child have had extensive training on this process and have used these strategies for the past four years.  Even though the schedule is more flexible, these strategies are still a key component to the learning environment.  

I often hear that the curriculum has changed.  What has changed is the delivery of instruction which is consistent with educational research and how we most effectively learn.  For more information on Direct Interactive Instruction, please visit the Action Learning website at http://www.actionlearningsystems.com/

Band/Orchestra/Choir:  If your child takes one or more of these courses, they have this class every day.  One change is that we extended the time for the class with the instructor.

Schedule (parts of it):  This has been the biggest question/concern that I hear---My child has trouble managing his or her schedule.  I began my work with Tecumseh Schools in 1996 (yes, I am old). When I became part of the TPS staff, I worked in the middle school.  The middle school had just switched from the junior high and people were not happy with that change. The "middle school concept" allowed for a flexible block schedule where educators would focus not only on the academics, but also on the social-emotional learning adolescents needed.  To do this, the middle school had a flexible schedule--except for lunch and electives, known as Encore. Teams were created for 6th, 7th and 8th grade students and the adults managed the flexible schedule. The days for learners were very rarely the same. The staff could adjust any of the flexible times to do special activities, spend more time in math, etc.  Fast forward to where we are now. The difference is that the learners (and their parents) are now fully aware of the day to day flexibility.

Your learner’s mentor teacher works with your child to review the schedule weekly and make sure they have the right amount of structure and support.  We have some learners who have a very tight (more "traditional" schedule) and other learners who, with their parents assistance, have created a schedule that allows more time for research in his or her area of interest.  When I talk to learners, I ask them if their schedule changed a lot last year and they say "Yes---but I didn’t have to worry about it." I think that is an honest assessment of how they feel. This is part of the work we are trying to support with your child.  The core classes are locked in--they don’t have a choice on those. Parents know their children best, so I encourage you to continue to work with your child on how flexible their schedule should be.  If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s schedule, please contact their mentor teacher or the building principal.

Recess:  Your child has had recess time during their entire educational career.  We believe that recess is important to our learners and we do require this to be scheduled each day.  In the past, recess was part of the regular lunch time for each learner. In addition, their classroom teacher may have found extra time throughout the day where they could choose to take their class outside for some fresh air.  The difference now is that we call out a recess time for your child on the schedule. For additional information on the importance of recess, please visit this link:http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/1/183

One -To-One Technology:  This is the first year for your child to have his or her own Chromebook.  For the past three years, we have issued Chromebooks to our 8th grade class.  This year, we elected to move this down to 7th grade. As a district, we are now 7-12 one-to-one with Chromebooks.  Many of the educators have been working with learners with Chromebooks for several years and continue to work to ensure that the technology enables and enhances learning, and it does not replace quality, face-to-face instruction. To manage online learning with one-to-one technology, we use a management tool called GoGuardian.  GoGuardian monitors the activity on all of the chromebooks 24 hours a day. The principal is notified when there is inappropriate use at any time and it is addressed. We also have a ability to limit internet usage for learners that may need more support in navigating appropriate online citizenship. They still have access to necessary websites for coursework. Parents are welcome to contact the principal for more information on this process.

We all know that change can be difficult and uncomfortable.  We also know that change is a part of life and it seems to be happening at faster rates than ever before.  Our educational system has survived for a long time without significant changes. The time, however, has ran out for our educational systems to stay stagnate. I know that it feels like many things have changed---and some things have indeed changed.  But, I hope you see that many things have stayed consistent in our district.  

Thanks again to all that have offered suggestions on how to best communicate information regarding our educational system - we are listening. TPS is leading the way in Lenawee County and we understand that it is the strong partnership with parents and our community that will strengthen our work.  If you have any questions or concerns about anything related to your child’s education, please contact the building principal. For additional information, feel free to visit our website at https://www.tps.k12.mi.us/

Respectfully,

Kelly

Dr. Kelly Coffin
Superintendent, Tecumseh Public Schools






 
 
 
 
 

 

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