Monday, May 14, 2012

2012 GCISD Board Election Results

Congratulations to Becky St John and Kimberley Barber Davis for their victories in the 2012 GCISD School Board election! Mrs. St John was re-elected with 55% of the vote (1,553 votes), while Mrs. Davis was elected with 64% of the vote (1,830 votes). Mrs. Davis will take over Charlie Warner's seat on the Board, as Mr. Warner decided not to run for re-election. I am looking forward to working with both of them as we implement our new LEAD 2021 strategy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

GCISD middle school curriculum changes postponed to 2013-14

In order to better inform parents about the middle school curriculum changes approved in the January 2012 School Board meeting, GCISD adjusted the timeline to eliminate the on-level course track and create the new College Readiness course offering. Instead of starting with new 6th graders in the 2012-13 school year, GCISD will implement the changes for both 6th and 7th graders during the 2013-14 school year. There will be no changes to the GT/Accelerated course tracks. As originally proposed, current middle school students will not be affected by the new program of studies. All students currently in middle school will continue to have the on-level, pre-AP and GT/Accelerated options.

These changes were approved in order to better prepare all our students for their post-high school education. The key is to prepare all students for all the options available, including trade schools, community colleges and universities. A well rounded and challenging public school education benefits all kids, even if they decide not to pursue a bachelor's degree. The issue we currently have is that many students taking on-level courses were not pursuing any degree after high school. We have to do a better job preparing and encouraging all students to continue their education once they leave the GCISD.

I received comments from parents that were concerned about pushing this curriculum change as quickly as we first envisioned. I also received feedback from elementary school parents stating their lack of trust in our ability to effectively differentiate class content at our middle schools with a more diverse student body inside the College Readiness courses.  On the other hand, our middle schools principals were very confident in their ability to implement this change for the next school year because current pre-AP classes already have a very diverse student body.

In addition to the benefit for middle school students, eliminating the on-level track will also have a positive effect in our elementary schools. As we align the middle school goals with our elementary schools, it is critical that we strengthen our elementary school curriculum. Improving the learning experience at the elementary level will prepare our students for a more challenging College Readiness course track at middle school. Instead of working the elementary school changes first to then implement changes at the middle schools in a few years, as suggested by some parents, we wanted to impact incoming 6th graders in order to accelerate meeting our college readiness goal proposed in our new LEAD 2021 district strategy.

As a member of the School Board, I understood the challenges this change would bring to our district. However, I have full confidence in the ability of Dr. Robin Ryan and his staff to implement this plan. In order to fulfill our mission to be the best school district in the state, we have to change the way we prepare our students. Close to 25% of our students do not pursue any degree after graduating from our district. That needs to change, and strengthening our middle school curriculum is an important step to improving those numbers.

For more information about the middle school curriculum changes, please visit this link

Sunday, January 29, 2012

GCISD eliminates on-level course track at the middle schools

On January 23rd, 2012, the GCISD School Board approved the elimination of the on-level ("regular") course track for all middle schools. Currently, middle school students can select between Gifted & Talented/Accelerated, Pre-AP and on-level course tracks when selecting classes in Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Science. Starting with students entering the 6th grade in August 2012, there will only be two options, Gifted & Talented/Accelerated and the new "College Readiness" track.  Some members of the community have expressed a concern that the new "College Readiness" track will be a "watered down" version of the Pre-AP track, in order to accommodate students that would previously have taken the "on-level" track.  However, this is not the intention of the new "College Readiness" track.   As in the case of the current Pre-AP track, the new "College Readiness" track includes a curriculum that will prepare students for future AP courses at the high school level.  In order to guarantee that all students are college ready by the time they graduate from high school (a goal of our new LEAD 2021 district strategy), the students that would normally have taken on-level classes will be placed in college readiness courses. 

As an aside, current middle school students will not be affected by this change (they will still have the 3-course track options for the rest of this year and for their subsequent years in middle school).

One concern about this change is how we are going to ensure that on-level students going into the 6th grade will be ready for a more challenging curriculum within the "College Readiness" track. Rick Westfall, GCISD's Chief Learning Officer, mentioned during this month's Board Meeting that GCISD will review and improve the curriculum at the elementary schools in order to support the new 2-track approach at the middle schools.  As this change affects current 5th graders going into 6th grade, GCISD will also offer assistance outside the classroom at the middle school level in order to ensure these students can perform at the college readiness level. This is no different than the assistance that is currently offered at all our middle schools for students that need additional help.

The key strategic goal of LEAD 2021 is to ensure that all students have a "personalized learning plan that leads to college and career readiness." GCISD intends to change the K-12 curriculum in order to establish college readiness as our minimum education standard. Eliminating the on-level track at our middle schools is a change that will lead us towards that goal.

If you have any comments or questions about this matter, please post them below or send an email to