Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Here are my quick notes on my meeting regarding HiCap at the middle school. The meeting consisted of the HiCap coordinator, vice principal, one of the Honors LA teachers and myself.

Differences between Honors and non-Honors:
·         Rubrics require deeper thought and analysis, more in-depth, project must add up to 150 (Honors students must choose the projects which use higher level thinking skills, so 3 midlevel projects, or one of each, etc. The non-Honors classes can use more than one of the 20 point options, which are at a very low depth of knowledge level.)
·         In the class, conversation, is more in-depth, make greater connections
·         Lot of discussion
·         Learning environment is significantly different
·        At the beginning of the year, both teachers were  given little curriculum, basically an estimated pacing guide, 6-7 pages written by non-6th grade teachers, sounds like it was put together quickly, maybe by the 7-8 LA team? Not sure. Basically the two 6th grade LA teachers are creating their curriculum as they go. One is very experienced, the other not. When Robin met with them to discuss ideas for enrichment, many of her ideas were already being implemented.
·         The Percy Jackson and EngageNY curriculum module took longer than expected because majority of students did not complete homework or read at home.
·         6th is not literature, main focus is learning to write GOOD essays with analysis of theme, setting and plot as well as how author develops character’s point of view; using evidence to support ideas;
·         Giver is a tool to learn other skills
·         Type and skills learned are very different between the two classes
·         Essays now find evidence, inferences, themes
·         So focus on shorter essay with more skills
·         Most honors kids are weak in writing, strong in reading. BUT some are weak in reading.
·         Honors kids are not great about getting homework done, so much has to be completed in class
·         Structures: up and moving, 4 corners, wall walks, competitions, generally given more choice on how to demonstrate mastery
·         More flexible grouping,
·         Honors kids take more responsibility for self-directed work
·         Honors class doesn’t look like honors in terms of ability level, motivation.  Neither of the honors classes are as high as one expects from honors. Some wonderings about how kids were placed
·         Both teachers are confused as to what the criteria was for getting into honors
·         Moving forward, they will get more short stories, classic lit, more writing
·         Conversations do take place that discuss themes, etc. across books and movies

More generally:
·         District is looking at curriculum. Which includes enrichment, higher depth of knowledge, analysis and synthesis, and more in-depth for honors/hi cap, while also having tools to help the struggling LA learners.
·         Clusters answer: 5 levels from lowest to high, cluster students so a classroom doesn’t spread over 4 levels, ideally 3 levels In future placements, should not see HiCap kids in same classroom with SpEd.
·         Long term goal: have classroom teachers know that when they start a new unit they come to HiCap to know how do we push the kids.
     If parent/student is having difficulty/concerns about a teacher, please Problem solve with parent and teacher and student (all three). If that doesn’t produce acceptable results, move up to principal.
     New curriculum will have built in structure for HiCap, One program that is very likely to be used next year is I-ready (spelling?): diagnostic, then places students individually according to current skills, can create groups, lesson plans for small groups, homework, all targets to individual student. Combination of teacher/program

     New LA materials are a priority for the district at this time.