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Notes from BMORE's Meeting with the CEO and CAO

On 5/23/18, Steering Committee members of BMORE met with Dr. Sonja Santelises and Dr. Sean Conley, to discuss a variety of topics. We strive to be a transparent organization that informs its membership of its actions, and not just to gain access to power via backroom deals. As such, we've reformatted and organized our notes from the meeting to share publicly.

Overview of the curriculum review rationale and findings:

  • One of the most striking finding of current materials: when matched the content areas, for African Americans in particular, was the preponderance of history was negative and challenged history – more slavery, Civil War, lynching, but not the Great Migration, Harlem Renaissance, etc; had not qualitatively looked at what that representation had looked like.

  • Also, emphasized, the need for consistency from school to school, especially because of the great mobility of our students, moving from one school to another, etc.180 schools, not everybody is a charter, and even then everyone is subject to these changes and shifts.

  • Great Minds/Wit and Wisdom feedback from surveys is educators like the alignment across grades and thought it was rigorous.

  • EL feedback: Teachers really love the K-2 play component.

  • BMORE requested that the feedback the district received be shared publicly prior to the vote.

Creating a New History of Baltimore Unit:

The district always knew they would need to build out from the backbone curriculum chosen; so, for example, a history of Baltimore unit common across the district in the middle grades.

  • The Middle Grades piece is just getting started, and it’s not rushed. No definitive deadline thus far. The WHEN or WHAT pieces aren’t yet decided.

  • There are summer programs lined up with MS students, so we can begin to make adjustments and further its design.

  • The intent is to get it out there, test it, then get it designed and built-out with real schools signing-up and testing it further.

  • Called “The Identity Project”, larger than just race

  • Unit would be about 6-8 weeks long

  • Looking to build-out for early adolescence students - in how they see themselves in Baltimore – get at identity formation occurring during early adolescence, and grounding it in content, still promoting standards but grounded in what they know and experience, creating an opportunity to engage in choice in their research and what they want to present.

New Professional Development Rationale and Thoughts:

  • The District has been hearing from the field: that their PD was top down – Day long with principals, then 2-hour ILT meeting, then 45 minutes with actual schools. This was an insufficient delivery mechanism. Teachers need more PD directly to them

  • “Academic Planning” days will be district-wide, once a month half days, taking a page from School Based Options (SBOs).

  • Each school would identify a teacher team to facilitate this learning; engage in district PD

  • Chief Davis would deploy ACLs and SCLs

  • Academic Planning days made to address the disconnect between district and how curriculum is really experienced in schools through these monthly learning opportunities.

  • These half days allow more consistent PDs that are linked together while leaving systemic PD days left to address data, culture, and other topics and content specific material

  • Connections to Blueprint – about building capacity with people to create effective teams at schools

  • PSRPs – should be in PD if they’re in classrooms. Historically it’s been up to the individual schools what to do. District won’t mandate PSRP participation, but will give guidance urging it

  • Also, it will be Virtual Learning – will probably be 45 minutes, and we’ll build out the other components.

  • The thought is, after these half-day PDs, people are planned for this next week.

BMORE Urged a Race-Based, Optional PD Session Teachers Could Sign up for:

  • District is open to the possibility of race-based work by choice as part of a PD cycle, knowing that it may evolve over time.

  • Initially could start as single cohort pilot, if Math and ELA are really going hard on curriculum during the half days, it frees up systemic days for more choice

  • Based on success and feedback from the pilot, could be scaled up in future years.

Other Assorted Questions and Answers:

  • Why the limited reach this year and not the entire K-12?

  • Can’t do it all because of money and because HS is just different.

  • What does differentiation look like in the new PD setup?

  • While the district acknowledges the need to figure out the problem of struggling first year teachers and successful ten-year veterans in the same PD space, we also do not want to return to the days of 150 catalog options to choose from. That approach doesn’t allow the district to move systemically. There’s an urgent and immediate need heard from teachers to help them get better at what they’re teacher right now, and with the new curriculum, that will be the focus.

  • Can schools opt-out of the new PD half days to run their own sessions?

  • Technically yes, however, schools will need a really tight plan ready to go when they apply if it’s going to be approved. So far, only a single principal has even reached out seeking this possibility.

  • New PD half days also mean more out of school, unsupervised time for kids. How will we support kids and families to have a plan and safe/productive opportunities on these early release days?

  • District is working on this and admits it’s a big issue. They are reaching out to all of the Rec Centers to ensure that they’re open on these days.

  • Will likely be a 3-hour early release, based on individual schools’ schedules. Still finalizing these details though.

  • When will the new curriculum be voted on?

  • The data wavered some, is currently back to June 12th for the vote.

  • When will new curriculum materials be made available to teachers?

  • The district is working on this, will work with schools and Literacy reps directly to communicate as much as possible.

  • Teachers responsible for teaching the Math PARCC Bridge class need PD first. This is tough since PARCC scores aren’t even released until September.

  • Dr. Conley will look into whether there’s a Math PARCC Bridge piece to the PD schedule, and possibly add one.

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