12/24/2012 10:12:00 AM Curricular activity: HUSD brainstorms education ideas
Dennis Bega with the Department of Education speaks to educators and local residents in Prescott Valley Dec. 14.
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg
Lisa Irish Special to the Tribune
A classroom policy overhaul in Humboldt Unified School District was on the agenda last week when a group of educators, parents, students and business owners met to discuss what's been working and what hasn't.
"I think we need to get rid of grade configurations and remove social promotions," suggested Bradshaw Mountain Middle School Principal Brian Buchholtz. "If a fourth-grader can do pre-algebra, how do elementary teachers differentiate for that? We need to let the kids go where they can get what they need."
The meeting Dec. 14 in Prescott Valley was part of a cross-country bus tour by U.S. Department of Education officials to develop ways to improve education and transform teaching.
"The best ideas for restoring the teaching profession won't come from Washington, D.C.; they're going to come from communities across the U.S.," said Dennis Bega, director of regional operations for the Department of Education, adding they had met with more than 5,000 people across the country on the subject.
The 40 people at the roundtable at HUSD's transportation center broke into smaller groups and suggested ways to reorganize the classroom, create a new school schedule, share responsibility among teachers and principals, improve teacher preparation, support professional development, evaluate teachers, and increase community engagement.
"We know you guys are doing some great things here and that's the first thing we want to hear - what success stories you have," said Aaron Bredenkamp, a teaching fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.
Tusanne Cordes, principal of Lake Valley Elementary School, said the district is successful in attracting student teachers.
"We have quite a few student teachers who come into our schools and many of them are hired," agreed Cathy Trotter, reading specialist at Granville Elementary School. "It's good to get them into the school districts they want to be working at."
Janet Humphrey with Credit Union West said there are local resources teachers can apply to for grants for items for their classrooms, and many businesses are interested in helping with teachers classroom needs.
"A lot of businesses would like to partner with educators," Humphrey said.
Bredenkamp then asked the groups to describe barriers they've encountered in reaching their goals.
HUSD Director of Educational Services Diana Green said it helps to have another adult in the classroom to manage the rest of the class when a teacher needs to reteach a concept to a smaller group of students or provide enrichment for others who have mastered the concept.
Rural districts don't have the same levels of funding as large metropolitan districts, agreed several participants, and most rural schools don't have a coordinator to help teachers look at students' assessments and data.
"Rural schools are at a disadvantage when they're trying to attract experienced staff without as many incentives," said Terri Matteson, principal at Glassford Hill Middle School. "There are many people in this room who have chosen to raise their children here for many reasons, but at an economic cost. So how do we help?"
Bega said that after each session, he sends an email to Education Secretary Arne Duncan about ideas developed, and they discuss ways the Department of Education can assist school districts.