The Richmond School Board held a public forum this evening at Armstrong High School to present and take comments on their “New Direction for RPS” planning as of yet. In attendance were board members Keith West and Chandra Smith, and RPS Superintendent Dr.Jewell-Sherman.
The presentation began with an acknowledgement of the progress that Richmond Public Schools have made over the past 3 years. In that time, the percentage of students taking AP classes has increased from .97% to 5.2%, the percentage of schools making AYP has increased form 23% to 84%, the percentage of schools that are SOL -accredited has improved from 19% to 86%, and the number of students dual enrolled has jumped from 241 to 1253. West said that these are major steps, but we are still not where we need to be.
He then delved into the basic tenets of the board’s “new direction”. He explained that with an emphasis on “developing the whole person”, the schools can ensure that students have the mental, physical, and ethical capabilities necessary to succeed after graduation (a notion first floated at the September Mayor’s 7th District Roundtable Meeting). Specific capabilities to be emphasized include punctuality, civic responsibility, effective communication skills, problem-solving capabilities, and healthy lifestyles and nutrition awareness.
A foundation of the new plan is putting in place a Personalized Education Plan (PEP) for each student. A sample PEP, apparently from Henrico, was provided as a hand-out. The PEP would be related to but different than Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that is federally mandated for Exceptional Education students. The plan seeks to identify learning characteristics and strengths/weaknesses of the student so that the schools are able to taylor an education for an individual student. The Henrico example is required for students that are retained or who are not performing at grade level and focuses purely on academics. The plan is a collaboration between the teacher, student, and parent to work towards ensuring the student’s success in the classroom.
Another point in the plan is an increase in “Program Choices”. As Community High, Open High, and Franklin Military offer options at the high school level, other options such as foreign language immersion and different academies can be considered. This is also a call for an expansion in popular programs such as AP (Advanced Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) courses.
West said that the school system needs to strive to “make ourselves as efficient as possible”, so that they can take the savings and apply them “where we can help the children the most”. He also acknowledge the potential need for reallocation of resources, saying that “nothing comes for free”.
After the presentation portion of the evening, the attendees were broken up into groups for a moderated discussion.
The big framing questions at the end of the presentation were:
- What do you like about this framework?
- What is missing?
- How would you prioritize the possibilities?
(For what it is worth, I am a teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. That makes West and Jewell-Sherman something like my boss’ boss’ boss.)