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4/11/2013 6:00:00 AM
Parents, teachers raise concerns over new middle school schedules
Administrators: Middle schools must change in face of low AIMS test rankings
Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

A proposed schedule change coming to White Cliffs Middle School is creating a stir at Kingman Middle School.

Several parents and teachers from KMS showed up at this week's Kingman Unified School District Governing Board meeting to voice their displeasure about the schedule change, which will begin at White Cliffs in the 2013-2014 school year and eventually move to KMS.

The change will increase the time students spend studying academics to 63 minutes each and decrease their electives to 42 minutes each. Many of the current year-long electives will become quarter-long enrichment activities, such as origami, chess and poetry.

The district hopes the schedule change will raise the middle schools' low academic performance ratings, which are currently a D based on results of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards testing.

"You're talking about cutting a program I've spent a year growing," said Ron Bahr, technology teacher at KMS. "I'm not denying there are core problems, but when you have 98 percent participation in something like technology, you're telling the kids that the arts and electives aren't important."

Currently, students at White Cliffs have four year-long core classes - math, science, language arts and social studies - and one year-long elective class, such as band, drama or choir. They also attend a semester of physical education, a quarter of technology and a quarter composed of academic readiness, wellness and career explorations.

Anita Rossi, chairperson of the KMS Band Boosters, said band is an important component of the school day and many students want to participate in it. She said students would hate to see it removed or shortened.

"This evening, I am not here just to speak as a band booster, but also as a band parent for many years," said Rossi. "My daughter has been in this district's music programs since elementary and she is now in high school. Music education has made a positive impact in her life. It has helped her become the responsible, intelligent individual that she is today."

KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks said he was very upset last year when the two middle schools were rated D schools. He said the district talked to consultants and got ideas from other school districts struggling with the same problems, including Vail School District near Tucson, where middle schools dramatically improved.

"We're still very much committed to the Four A's of education, but we have to solve our academic problem," said Jacks, noting the Four As are academics, arts, activities and athletics. "If we don't do something with these schools, we're going to be getting a lot of help soon from the Arizona Department of Education."

White Cliffs Principal Cliff Angle explained the schedule change, noting it is needed because of current scheduling difficulties. Angle said electives, differences in class size, inflexibility and an inability to implement teacher teaming are factors that negatively affect scheduling.

Angle said he learned from Vail that the keys to increasing White Cliffs' rating are implementing Beyond Textbooks, including Daily Math Skills in the schedule, designating time for reteaching and enrichment, and increasing time in academic subjects.

In the Beyond Textbooks program, teachers are told when they must teach a subject and how the results will be assessed, but are given the freedom to teach it their own way. Daily Math Skills is daily math remediation.

Angle said successful schools incorporate teaming, or using the same group of teachers for a group of students, and common planning time for teamed teachers. Also, they split into three lunch periods, separating sixth-graders into a separate lunch to reduce behavior issues, and introduce an intramural program.

"From a structural standpoint, it makes it very difficult to schedule when you have all these electives," said Angle. "And it makes it incredibly difficult - if not impossible - to do any teaming of teachers. Our academics are suffering, and as much of a band geek as I am, you don't get a letter grade for the school based on it."

Angle said the schools he has observed had to make the same sacrifices to get to the top rank in the state. He said the new schedule will allow students to earn their way academically into the enrichment programs, based on their scores in the core subjects.

"There are lots of other ways to get electives without taking the focus away from what the students are there for, which is academics," said Angle. "We have to start somewhere. This requires a cultural shift, but we have continued to under-perform and we will stay that way if we don't make these changes."

KMS Principal Gary Blanton tried to reassure staff and parents from the middle school that electives wouldn't be booted from the school. Blanton said his goal is increasing electives and getting his staff to share their ideas about how to accomplish it.

Board members listened intently to the comments and discussion, then asked questions and sought clarifications. Member Laurie Barthlow studied her paperwork and shook her head.

"I do not at all relish the idea of losing time to the arts, choir, drama and computers," she said. "They're all enriching and inspiring. But until the state wants to fund a longer school day, what else can we do? I almost feel like we're being held hostage when it comes to AIMS testing. I want to commend the district for being proactive about this."

Board President Jeri Brock agreed,

"I appreciate the power of art and music, but students have to master the core subjects before they can move forward," she said. "I appreciate the district looking ahead on this."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013
Article comment by: No Name

Origami and ches are after school activities and are not electives in the classroom. There are many after school clubs that are there for the students to excell in. The electives that were discussed at the board meeting were the Technology, PE, Band, Art, and Drama. The Middle Schools dropped out shop several years agao in budget cuts. The equipment and tools have long been sold off. One size will never fit all and that is the purpose of the reteach and enrich. For those that need the extra help they will have it and for those who are meeting the standards with their Biweekly testing they will be able to take enrichment classes in things designed to help the student grow.

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013
Article comment by: Patricia Hapke

My daughter attended WCMS and was very disappointed when they changed the staff there. With all the suspensions students aren't able to keep up with their studies and a lot of students repeatedly end up in ISS. Some on purpose. Learning is difficult to accomplish when you are not there and cannot catch up with your class and are feeling constantly distracted in school. There is a lot more to these scores being low. There are a lot of kids in need of more than the core subjects. Students who participate in in clubs, arts, drama, choir and band are more likely to be successful in other areas of school.
The US as a whole need to look to the more successful countries and how they run their schools. In Europe they have schools that run 6 days a week and concentrate on 2 subjects a day. This has proven to be very successful with projects being completed more fully and homework turned in finished and done correctly.
The government wants high scores from schools but is not willing to pay for it. WCMS might have more success if there were enough books to go around as well. Funding is short, classes too big, behavior out of control and teachers over worked and under paid.

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013
Article comment by: A Concerned Citizen

Well stated, Mr. Shelton and Town Crier! A well rounded education - including the Arts and other electives - develops a person who can think critically and look beyond the box. Our nation's workforce does not need more drones who can only past tests.

America's educational process is a vicious cycle poor parenting - uncontrolable student behavior - frustrated, ineffective teachers - overpaid administration - governmental mandates/funding cuts. Education starts at home. Parents, it starts with YOU.

There are some quality teachers in KUSD, but many have fallen to mediocrity much like society. Arizona ranks at the bottom in teacher pay Mohave County is one of the lowest in the state. What's going on?

Posted: Friday, April 12, 2013
Article comment by: Look at the whole picture

They're not talking about eliminating chess. That's an extra-curricular held after school hours. They are talking about lessening time spent in electives such as band and drama. Kingman Middle School and Kingman High School have exceptional band programs. Their students have won numerous awards and have participated in Regional and All-State performances. It's unfortunate the young lady mentioned in the comment couldn't make change, however that's not the norm for band students. In fact, three of the seven middle school students who will be competing at a State level in the National History Day competition on Saturday are also Honor Band Students. Two of these students are taking a high school algebra class while still in 8th grade. These are exceptional students, and their talent should be encouraged by this district. Instead these students must now worry the band program they love so much and strive to succeed in will be taken from them.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: keep the arts

The WCMS Band, Art and Technology teachers due include Core standards in their classrooms on a regular basis. I hope the school board checks the facts and keeps these programs as they are. I also hope the board looks at the real problems. As a parent I hear that this kid has OSS for fighting, but this preferred kid gets nothing. There lies the problem. The amount of drugs and alcohol that my student has seen AT the school is the problem. My child reports kids leaving classrooms to make-out in the bathrooms. From what I have seen the teachers are trying hard, but they do not have an admin team handles the discipline.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Town Crier

Jack A. Lope obviously has no idea what he is talking about. Band and music have a lot to do with mathematics. Most that are good at one are also good with the other. Maybe try some research before making empty/baseless claims. They can't make correct change due to, in large part, a lousy district run by those that are clueless and only being able to attract and maintain a small percentage of some of the worst/ineffective educators and administrators. More time with the incompetent in an ineffective district will not improve test scores or the ability to make correct change. This is sad considering the AIMS testing is one of the weakest/easiest state standardized tests. Being the top school in AZ is like being the tallest little person.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: wake up

Wake up Kingman its not all this Administrations fault don't forget that the past years Administration didn't think about the future of the district. I fell bad for Mount Tipton because they got filled full of lies by Mike Ford when he said it would be the best thing for them to do was join KUSD back in the day when he was the Administrator. Azva or the charter school is going to be your best bet for education these days.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: I feel as if this isn't a bad idea ......

If you think about what the schools are trying to accomplish by changing up the schedule. It really isn't all that bad. If they were losing them completely I could see this as a really bad situation because I believe they do have an impact on the students lifes. However there not losing the activity they are losing what maybe 15 minutes of time. Although by doing this the kids and teachers maybe a little upset, but if it helps our academics then thats great. Our academics is what is important and can really affect a students future. Some students may need that extra 15 minutes in another class to refresh information learned the previous day. I also dont think they are saying this is a permanent fix either. Further down the line once academics is up they may increase in activity. We need to build our academics just like we need to build many other things. This all takes time.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Highly Amused

I guarantee you that changing times for classes will NOT raise the academic scores. The only thing that WILL change academic scores is when parents get off their butts and start CARING about their child's education and helping with it instead of leaving it all to the teacher!

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Tax Payer

Your darn right cut the elective classes if these kids aren't meeting standards. Mohave County is one of the least educated counties in Arizona. Look it up. Our percentage of college graduates is in the single digits and that attitude toward educations starts young. We shouldn't pride ourselves on our ignorance. I don't pay taxes so Johnny or Suzy can play in the band all day. If these kids won't apply themselves, they need to learn that privileges like electives will be taken away until they shape up. I don't blame the administrators at all, but rather the parents who seem to think educating their child is everyone else's job.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: V Stokes

Origami? Really? Maybe as taught as part of a general art class of some sort...but not as a standalone. Poetry? Again, as part of an English class of some sort.

Chess....sorry..that should be a club. Sure, it teaches critical and clear thinking, but it's an activity..not a class. In my HS years, we played after we finished our work in study hall or during lunch. And we had teachers that helped us learn voluntarily. This was in a very rural school in OH with a student body of less than 400 for 9-12.

Drama? Choir? Those were in the general Music category. You took one of the 3 for a single semester. If you found an interest, it became an after school activity after that.

It boils down you want children to learn and prepare for the real world to some extent...or do you want them to have fun during their school years?

Science, Math, English, History...and all the associated fields should be the focus. Even if a Vocational program is offered (don't think there is one here?) the above are still a critical aspect...just not as deeply delved in to.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Jack A.Lope

It is a pitty when a KHS senior, excelling in band, cannot figure out the change on a 99 cent transaction when you hand her a 5 dollar bill. all the Band and Art in the world won't help her with that.

In many countries, band and art are Extracurricular activities and tech has become a "core" elective. those countries are way past us

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Donna Wickerd

One-size-fits-all education for the average student is all the KUSD cares to provide....are you surprised they waited until AFTER closing Mt tipton to tell parents they were limiting options at White Cliffs? I wonder how many more surprises they have in store for you?!

Canned education is all this administration is capable of and every year they hire more canned administrators, so it is only going to get worse. The only board member who cares about actual students is Laurie Barthlow....send her an email and let her know you support creative alternatives....and another look at my plan for the school district!

Or you could join a charter....LOL

Good luck Kingman, and have a nice day!

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Town Crier

This will not help. Increasing time in core areas where students already struggle is only breeding more contempt among the students and therefore making them dislike these subjects. It makes the students feel more defeated. The arts isn't just another class, but a break that students need. And, if the board members were more knowledgeable when it comes to education they would know the importance of the specials/electives as another resource for reinforcing the core subjects...but sadly they don't have the background to truly understand and yet they are making these comments and decisions based on their ignorance? Good call KUSD. KUSD would be better served by getting school board members and a superintendent that understands how education REALLY works, until then...expect more of the same.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Don Shelton

Lessons taught in elective classes should incorporate practice in the core areas. Music would obviously contribute to the math standards, foreign language could contribute to practicing math, language arts, and social studies standards. Electives should be treated as a contributing factor to education instead of as a waste of time.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013
Article comment by: Right On

Origami? Chess? Yes, they can be sacrificed for academics. At this middle school level the school must concentrate on academics. Don't pass these students on to high school without the basic skills for success, especially communication skills.

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