Petition to Superintendent Steve Lockard, FCPS School Board, FCPS Board of Supervisors
FCPS: Save AAP Centers (and save bus transportation to Centers)
The Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Budget Task Force is recommending eliminating AAP Center Schools. Technically, they recommend eliminating bus service to all AAP Center schools (gifted and talented magnet schools) at both the elementary and middle school level (grades 3-8) and instead replacing them with “Local Level IV” services (LLIV). What this means in plain English is that students will no longer have a choice to go to a gifted magnet or center school, but rather, will be forced to stay in their local or "base" school, unless they can secure their own transportation. And it is only a matter of time, once there is no transportation, to close the doors on all AAP Center Schools. FCPS says that they will instead create gifted programs in every local school, so they claim no one will be adversely affected. But AAP Center Schools and Local Level IV base programs are NOT equal. FCPS may also use positive spin terminology like “creating a Center in every school” – which sounds good in theory – but in reality means simply that everyone has to stay at their local school, so there is no longer a choice to go to a “true” Center school - one that brings in AAP kids from multiple schools. The local schools will not have the same resources nor the same size peer group. This may end up being a form of discrimination, as students in the poorest schools are likely to be most severely impacted. AAP Centers and LLIV (base) schools are not all equal. Here’s why: · Resources. Do we really believe the gifted programs at the poorest schools, in the poorest neighborhoods, will be as good as the gifted programs in the wealthy schools, in the wealthy neighborhoods? Some schools have wealthier families, with wealthier PTAs donating more resources. Some schools have more stay at home parents, with more time to volunteer at the school. As a result, some schools have many, many more opportunities for enrichment and clubs, like chess club, debate, model UN, robotics, science fairs, math Olympiads, etc., etc. These are activities that AAP kids need to thrive. If FCPS truly believes all Lev el IV Schools in the County are equal, then why not continue to offer the choice and see how many students voluntarily elect to stay at their local school, versus how many opt to take the bus to the AAP Center school, with more resources? If the two are truly equal, then FCPS would not be saving any money with this proposal, because everyone would choose to stay in their local school anyway. · Peer Groups / "Critical Mass". Peer group or “critical mass” of like-minded students is important. Even if you assume two different schools, one Local Level IV and one AAP Center school, can be equal in terms of quality, the number of AAP qualified kids in the school also matters. Imagine a situation where the LLIV program has only 3 or 4 AAP qualified kids, but the AAP Center, which brings AAP kids from multiple schools, might have two or three CLASSROOMS full of AAP students. Anyone with an AAP kid knows that they might feel like a “nerd” or outcast when they are in the minority. But at the AAP Center school, where most kids are like them, they “fit in” and thrive. This is important not only socially and psychologically (for self confidence), but also academically. When they don’t fit in, they will stop “acting smart” and will start trying to fit in by not standing out academically. In a Center school the peer group pushes each other academically, so they all strive to achieve more. Studies show peer groups matter. Students in Local Level IV schools with small "cohorts" will be disadvantaged. This proposal is discrimination, plain and simple. The poor and the minorities will be disproportionately disadvantaged by this change for two reasons – first, because the poorest schools with the most minorities will be disproportionately affected, and second because the wealthiest families will be most able to secure transportation to keep their options open. Sign on to this petition if you want to tell FGCPS (the Superintendent, the Board of Supervisors and the School Board) that AAP Centers and Local Level IV AAP Programs are NOT equal, and that AAP Centers should be preserved, along with the right to take a bus to the AAP Center near you.
Petition to SOMSD Superintendent and Board of Ed and CHS Principal Morgan
Start Columbia High School Later to Reduce Sleep Deprivation in Teens
We, the concerned residents, parents and students of South Orange and Maplewood, are writing to urge you to submit an application to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education to allow Columbia High School to participate in the pilot program for later start times for high schools. A later start time would promote the health, well-being, and academic success of our students. Major studies show that most adolescents suffer from sleep deprivation when their school day begins before 8:30 AM. Most teens undergo a "phase delay" in their sleep patterns, causing them to naturally fall asleep later and wake up later in the morning than they did in early childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that high schools start class after 8:30 AM. According to the CDC, 70% of all teens are sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation endangers children's health and safety, contributing to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, obesity, and car crashes, among many other issues. Inadequate sleep is also associated with poorer academic and athletic performance. Schools that have changed to later start times report that their students show improved attendance, improved academic performance, higher standardized test scores, increased efficiency in homework, lower rates of depression, fewer disciplinary referrals, and increased total sleep. One city experienced a 70% reduction in teen car crashes. We believe a later school start will benefit all our high school students.
Petition to Barrington School Committee
Protest the vote regarding the new school start times
The school committee recently voted 3-2 in favor of changing the school start times. This later time is extremely costly and there are many concerns about where the money will come from to support this change. There are also many unanswered questions regarding school activities and how they will be affected. We feel this decision was made without addressing the many concerns of students, teachers and residents of Barrington. The School Committee has taken an extreme measure without giving voice to the community at large. We are asking you to join us in requesting the School Committee respond to our concerns by signing . Decisions affecting our children concern all of us. Please consider signing so that the many unanswered questions surrounding this issue can be further discussed.
Petition to UC BOARS Committee
Make Computer Science count in California #CSinCA #MakeCSCount
In California, unlike most states, computer science is only an elective. This discourages students from taking it and schools from teaching it. California ought to be a leader in computer science. Make CS count in California and let all our kids have access to this foundational field. While most of America has already made this change, California doesn’t count CS toward graduation or college admission requirements. For this reason, most California schools don’t even offer it. As one of California’s few CS educators, I’ve witnessed the direct impact on my students in Oakland. Strained by the rigors of filling their schedule with required courses, few students can even consider computer science. It’s heartbreaking to see a student forced to choose between CS, which would be foundational to her career, and the courses required for college. No student should have to make such a choice. I’ve seen computer science transform the lives of my students. In America’s top universities, CS is rapidly becoming the most popular field of study. Leaders across academia and business have declared that computer science is foundational. California is making big moves to embrace CS. Schools across the state are adding CS classes. Governor Brown and the State Legislature have passed new laws providing a path for computer science to count towards graduation and university admission. In spite of these advances, the ultimate decision rests with the independent University of California Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) , and so far they’ve rejected proposals to make computer science count. I’m joining elected officials and dozens of academic and business leaders who stepped forward this week to ask the BOARS committee to update their math requirements (category “C”) to count computer science. Allowing computer science to count as a “C” credit will drive curriculum adoption by schools and enrollment by diverse populations across the state. Join us in urging the U.C. BOARS committee make computer science count. Together let’s bring California’s education system into the 21st century.
Petition to Chris Reykdal, Washington State Board of Education, Jay Inslee
Modernize Public Schools in Washington State
Let's use our contemporary understanding of how children learn to create a new generation of schools that ignite passion and curiosity . . . and stop wasting effort and tax dollars on an outdated model of education that is harmful to students, burns out teachers, and frustrates parents. We’ve all heard the litany of problems in public schools in Washington State and beyond - too many kids crammed into classrooms, lagging test scores, boredom, bullying, essential skills not taught, teachers overworked and underpaid, low graduation rates in poorer schools, etc. For decades we have been promised that various education reforms would solve these issues, yet they persist with seemingly no end in sight. (Read the Public Education List of Shame.) After studying these and other problems with schools, many of the world’s top educators and thinkers have come to believe that our continuing education crisis isn’t a failure to enact the right reforms or enough of them, but that the education model itself is flawed. These same visionaries have also pointed to alternative education models that work far better. (Get inspired by these forward thinkers.) The traditional classroom consists of a teacher, usually standing in front of similarly-aged students seated in rows of desks. The teacher imparts knowledge, and the children are supposed to receive it, learn it, remember it, and integrate it with the knowledge they already have. There are many flaws with this. One is that the children in the class are at various levels of mastery, engagement, maturity and discipline. Teaching the same lesson to a whole class means that some will be bored, some engaged, and some struggling. Another issue is that the our brains are not designed to learn by being a passive receiver of information - we learn by participating, creating, trial and error, inspiration, and following our passions. Finally, it has been shown over and over again that children learn best in settings with a diversity of ages, not just with people who happen to be born the same year as them. Further complicating our education system is the emphasis on test-taking. Everyone knows most of what we learn is forgotten soon after the test is complete, yet testing (and especially standardized testing) is held up as the holy grail of knowledge, achievement, and future success. (Note: it isn’t!) Also, the current public school paradigm is standards-based. That is to say, there is a hierarchy of subjects, with literacy plus STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at the top, then the humanities (history, geography and social studies), and then near the bottom the practical disciplines (art, drama, music, design, and physical education). Most other traditional subjects (like home economics and vocational programs like shop) are rarely taught anymore. And even if they are, this still leaves entire areas of one's future life untouched. How does one learn to save and invest money? Prepare their taxes? Cook a healthy meal? Change the tire on a car? Acquire conflict resolution skills? Know how to start a business? How do we ignite the varied passions and interests of all children without presenting them a broad range of subjects to engage in? We can’t! We are proposing a redesign of the classroom and the school day to modernize public education. It includes: Teaching an innovative 21st century curriculum - In addition to English, computer literacy, math, science, history, social studies and physical education, the following should be taught in every public school: critical thinking, conflict resolution skills, visual and performing arts, technical and trade skills, financial literacy, self-care, culinary arts, media and digital literacy, global citizenship, and foreign languages. (Read 10 Things School Should Teach Us But Usually Doesn’t.) Creating a school-wide environment of curiosity where kids are naturally motivated to learn, and teachers can focus on facilitating a learning environment rather than management, discipline, grading and lecturing. Reconfiguring all traditional classrooms into project / activity rooms and online learning centers, thus eliminating the teacher-up-front classroom structure. Let’s completely abolish the “factory model” classrooms, “assembly line model” schools, and “mass herding” education systems. Putting project and activity based learning as the foundation of our education system. These present students the opportunity to develop skills and knowledge through engaging projects set around challenges and problems they may face in the real world. Instead of relying on short-term memorization strategies, it gives students the advantage of deep involvement with the content and thus long-term retention of the material. Online learning should replace traditional classes wherever project and activity based learning can’t. This type of learning can catapult a student's learning and a teacher's effectiveness in ways we could only dream of a generation ago. Online curricula gives us the ability to have the world's greatest minds in every single classroom, every single day. This is far and away the best and most elegant solution to the unrealistic and stressful workloads we put on teachers. By doing this, all students can be challenged at their current ability and mastery level. Online learning also and makes it possible for the most remote and poorly funded school districts to have the same potential learning opportunities as the most elite and well-funded ones. Employing Chief Motivational Officers (CMOs) - Every public school should have a life coach on staff, replacing the traditional role of a vice-principal. We call them CMOs. The emphasis should be on hiring charismatic people (role models) whose job it is to really care about each student’s well-being and success, check in with them, inspire, and act as a problem-solver when obstacles arise. Creating a personalized student growth plan for every single child - These customized plans would be designed by a group of advisers with full participation from the child. The plan would be design to support the student’s emotional, social, physical, and intellectual needs while motivating them down an academic path that would maximize their learning potential. The advisers would include parents or guardians, teachers, community members and their school’s CMO. The same group would support and follow the child’s progress over the years. Implementing peer mentoring (kids teaching kids) - Mentors have the opportunity to share what they have learned, enhance their confidence in the subject, learn to be supportive, and build communication skills. Mentees feel more engaged because they are relating to a peer, and experience a wider range of perspectives. Peer mentoring also frees up the teacher to focus their attention where it is most needed and thus be more effective in creating a true learning environment. Building parental involvement and community engagement into the system - Including parents and community members into the classroom dynamic builds on the concept of project-based learning, and expands the school into the whole town / city / county. Creating school schedules and calendars that better line up with adult work commitments and child sleep patterns. - Schools should be open 220 days a year from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM so that before and after school care is not such a burden for parents and guardians. (Note: attendance would only be required the normal number of hours, for example 9 AM to 3:30 PM.). School schedules should also reflect age-appropriate circadian rhythms (sleep patterns). Stopping the endless “reforms” and practices that attempt to make the wrong public school model right. This includes ending multi-tiered approaches such as RTI and PBIS, instructional frameworks such as 5d+, and every other scheme designed to prop up obsolete schools and school systems. Read more about the New Education Model. We are suggesting nothing less than completely redesigning K-12 public education in Washington State. We feel it is time to scrap the obsolete model we currently use, and replace it with a modern, 21st century one based on forward-thinking, solid educational principles. At its core, the idea is to inspire and educate each child as an individual, rather than as part of the herd. If we care about our children as much as we say we do, then we should begin moving forward with these changes as soon as possible. Note: The model we are proposing can be operated within existing school budgets. There will be some up-front costs to transition to the new structure, but in the long run they will cost the same as or less than operating the obsolete public school model. More details on everything in this petition, plus more information about the Education Revolution and what you can do to help, can be found at DemandSchoolChange.org. Click here to sign the petition to modernize public schools throughout the United States. Thank you for your support!