(Last) week, the Northshore School District asked that, in my technical capacity, I place a survey on our school’s website. The survey was asking for student feedback.
It is hard to express my frustration at realizing that this survey was designed, not for the majority of our students, but for those students who are enrolled in our challenge (honors) courses.
This is demonstrative of an ongoing issue in our district: a pervasive elitist attitude where segregation is the norm and students’ opinions and needs are valued, not based on the fact that they are students in our district, but where they stand in the academic ranking.
Where are the surveys asking our "average" students what they think? Where are the surveys that ask students with disabilities how we can help them better? Surely, if our district really wants us to focus on struggling learners, asking the learners themselves what they think might be helpful. The absence of comparable surveys makes clear a deficiency that starts at our district administrative level: some students matter more than others. Our district administration is completely out of touch with the true needs of our students and school communities.
I’ve watched for years as this district has continued to remove focus on the tools that assist the 15-20 percent of students who can and are successful with some additional/specific/support. This is despite a community meeting several years ago when a district community forum had a vote that resulted in showing that this district’s parents believe that the AP/IB program are equally as important as helping our struggling students. This administration isn’t giving equal effort to the requests of their community.
I’ve watched the district take away math para-educators. We needed more, not less. Last year, all year, I volunteered in two math lab classes to help alleviate the slack this district and state chose to create. Working first as a tech specialist for seven years, I’ve been in every classroom of Northshore Junior High. I know my teachers; I know the impact/consequences of our district’s administration’s decisions.
Top-Down administration doesn’t work. Teaching isn’t a final product that you can measure. The majority of teachers work hard, despite increasing demands in testing, to help students learn how to learn and grow into confident, successful individuals.
At the end of the last school year, I wanted to dedicate my time to helping students full time. I gave up a stable tech position I had to take a position that I knew, based on the current school administration, would not have any job security. I was given a four- hour- a-day position working with students in a learning center and general education classrooms (my goal has always been to help any and all students on campus if I am able). I also continued to volunteer my time every day to make sure these students have the continuity of support they need during any part of the school day and after. To do otherwise, would feel like injustice to me.
Yes, I believe my district, state and nation set up kids and teachers for failure. Any legislator or school administrator who wants to make education curriculum and testing decisions, needs to have a rounded understanding of what their demands do to the nature of teaching and how it may impede students from truly learning. They also need a depth of understanding on how the brain learns (including the fact that the brain needs empathy from others in order to really learn).
There are school districts and some national programs that are implementing changes in useful directions. The Northshore School District is going in a tangent direction away from what studies and neuroscientists already know concretely about how our brains learn.
Our district administrators don’t spend enough time in the schools participating and working with students and teachers.
A district’s success is not about a student or select students. Education is about all students and helping them achieve success to the best of their abilities. Our society and community success depends on all people being allowed to reach their potential.
This district is segregating and acting elitist. It was painful for me to add the student survey to our school’s website. My hope is that it angers more parents/students than it appeases.
Until the district values all students’ opinions and in due diligence attempts to meet these needs, I can no longer silently watch while trying to stop-gap the problems this district’s administration is creating with their discriminatory behavior. My first reaction to the posting of the student survey to our website was excitement; finally the district is talking to the consumer (our students) about their education needs. This happiness was followed with frustration that this survey wasn’t for all NSD junior high students; even worse, it was geared toward only a select few.
Cyndee Wiese, via email
PALS (Parent advocates for a later start) representatives have been in discussions with NSD to change the high schools to a later start time for many years now, but the stumbling block to change has always been "cost," albeit unsubstantiated cost! The transportation budget is made up of state and levy funding. However, things are about to change as the state is set to "fully fund" transportation, which means that approximately $2.5 million of levy money will become available. What PALS would like to see is some of this money, your money, being used within the transportation department to bring about changes that would allow our high schools to start later.Also, the Seattle School District is working with parents to resolve the issue of later start times by polling every parent on this issue next school year, with a view to implementing the changes the following year.
Their high school start times are already half an hour to one hour later than ours!
Why is NSD not working with us in the same way?
"The Northshore School District is seeking feedback from students in the JH Challenge and Pre AP/IB program via a survey to assist the district’s program planning process. Students - please complete the survey on the following link no later than June 14, 2013. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/challengestudents."