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Sunday, April 15, 2012

My email to Dr. Rock regarding his 4/4/12 article in the Clarkston News

I read your article in the 4/4/12 Clarkston News. 

I have some comments in regard to the areas I bolded in blue from your article and I then included (my comments in red and parentheses next to your comments).
Here is the article:

Words from the Sup't

What does a bond mean for your child?

"April 04, 2012 - Included in the district's needs list, which was established through the strategic planning process and lists how the district will utilize bond monies, is the establishment of 1-to-Global learning environments in each of our schools and classrooms.

Here, the district will supply each student with a digital learning device that will open up the world of learning and better prepare our students to compete with those in Rochester, Birmingham, Novi, Espoo, and Kallang. Toward this end, tive
overarching principles will guide our decisions regarding technology, the curriculum, and instruction, including:

• to foster in each student the dispositions embodied in our Mission, Vision and Learner Profile (in what types of thinking do we want our students to engage?)

• to focus on the deep exploration of big ideas (what's worth learning and thinking about?)

• to make learning both individual and collaborative (how do we attend to and celebrate individual students and simultaneously collectively engage our learners?)

• to make learning interdisciplinary (how do we make K-12 learning a coherent experience?)

• to provide students with the tools to demonstrate and perform their learning (how do we know that each of our students has learned and can think? what evidence will we accept?) "   I see no reference to any testing, so how WILL you know that the students have actually learned anything?

"Imagine a Social Studies classroom discussion involving Syria. The teacher asks the students to use their digital technology to identify four sources supporting each side of the country's civil war, two perspectives from China and Russia, and two perspectives from the UN. The teacher asks the students to document the various perspectives and to engage in conversations with other students in the class who have identitied different sources and perspectives.

The teacher then asks the students to take a side and to provide evidence for their decision. Next, the teacher asks each student to exchange his/her side with another student who has the opposite perspective and to defend that perspective.

Finally, the teacher asks students to gather into groups and create a video demonstrating their collective stance on Syria. What should the country do next? How should it resolve these issues? What role should the UN play? How should the UN deal with China and Russia? What are the possible repercussions for taking such a stance regarding China and Russia? What are the long term possibilities for the people of Syria?

Now imagine the Mathematics classroom next door. The students from the Social Studies class enter and are asked by the teacher to discuss the economic realities within Syria. Using a digital textbook created jointly by the students' mathematics, Social Studies, English, Physical Education, Art, and Science teachers, the students explore economic sources from the region and elsewhere around the world. The teacher asks the students, What economic factors affect the situation in Syria? What economic effect will the proposed solutions have on the country and the region?

Next, the students enter a Science classroom wherein the teacher asks the students to analyze the geographic region, the effects of geography and climate on the country's economy and health, and the level of scientitic knowledge in the country. What are the health standards? What are the country's geographic limitations? What does the country need to do to move fonivard

After Science class, the students go to English class where they are asked by their teacher to write a paper around their conclusions. Using their mobile learning device, the teacher instructs the students to create an interactive paper including maps, videos, graphs, and text.

Students will work on this writing assignment in the groups established in Social Studies class.

At the end of the day, the students attend Physical Education class where they again use their mobile learning devices to investigate games played in Syria. Through a see-think-wonder thinking routine, the students observe one another engaged in the games and make connections to Syria's science, culture, and economics.

The next day, the students return to their Social Studies classroom to continue their work on their group projects, which they will eventually use as their unit assessment for each of their classes. The teachers will work together to give each student feedback on his/her development of core curricular understandings.

The team will also give each student feedback on his/her development of the dispositions of creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, written and oral communication, imagination, and collaboration. Parents at home will have access to the videos created by students and the feedback on students' content area and thinking disposition development. The conversations around the dinner table during the unit of study may well involve the entire family thinking together about the deep learning taking place at school."


If you decide to use this curriculum plan if the district ends up with the 1:global devices, I have concerns about that as the State of Michigan has its own curriculum and standards.  How do you plan to meet the state’s curriculum and standards? 

I feel that the public should be asked how they feel about these proposed changes.  Getting four school board members to agree with your plans does not make for public consensus.  

The last I checked, teachers were not responsible for developing their own textbooks.      
This “situation” inexplicably assumes all of the students would have the same classes with the same students in each class...  Based on that, would every student have a group of 30 or so students that they have all of their classes with?    I believe our children need to learn critical thinking, analysis, and decision making, but our children also need to learn Biology, Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, US History, Drawing, CAD Design, etc. in their Biology, Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, US History, Drawing, and Design classes, NOT about:
  • "How Syrian students dissect Savigny Tree Frogs in Biology Class",
  • "Symbols used for "X" and "Y" using the Assyrian alphabet for Algebra in Syria",
  • "Do Squares in Syrian Geometry Still Have 90 Degree Angles?",
  • "Chemical Symbols used in Syria",
  • "How Syrian teachers use false information to teach US History to their students",
  • "Drawing styles in Syria",
  • "Information on the only CAD Design class in a private school in Syria",
If you want to totally transform education, then please start your own private school and leave our school system alone.  

"In 2012, this is the type of interactive, deep, all-inclusive learning that we believe is essential for every single child we serve. In 2012, we are obligated to prepare our students to sit shoulder to shoulder with students from Rochester, Birmingham, Novi, Espoo, and Kallang."  
Any comparisons of Clarkston schools to schools in areas where the students are homogeneous (all or mostly native peoples/not diverse or where the schools can be selective about who they admit) are invalid.  Just about any school in the far east (especially China or Japan), or the mostly non-immigrant European countries like Sweden, Iceland, Norway, or Finland are homogeneous (not diverse) and not comparable to Clarkston.  My bi-lingual (Japanese/English) speaking nephews live in the US and speak Japanese in their home.  They go to visit relatives in Japan every summer. They are in advanced math/science schools in a public school system in the US and go to Japanese school every Saturday. They went to school in Japan one summer and had an awful experience. They could keep up and were doing fine in the classes, but the male students were verbally and physically abusive to them (maybe because they were not 100% Japanese). The teacher did nothing to stop the abuse, even when it was brought to her attention by their mother. Culturally, in Japan, women do not "correct" a man, even if the "man" is a 12 year old boy who is bullying another student in her classroom. My nephews had to leave the school for their own safety.  It was an expensive private prep school with supposedly fabulous educational attainment, but it was not a school YOU would want your children to go to and my nephews were keeping up with the other students. I was told that only the top students are allowed to stay in the school, leaving the top achieving students in the school and dropping the less successful students to go to other schools. The public schools in Clarkston do not have the ability to do that.  You can't compare apples to oranges and you can't take one bit of information about a school and magnify it to mean something it isn't without having all of the facts.  

"We believe that our focus on the five principles (mentioned previously), Combined with

1:Global technology, will help us make this a reality for every child we serve in 2012 (the receipt of first bond series); in 2016 (the receipt of the second bond series); in 2020 (the receipt of third bond series); on May 1, 2021 (when the first bond series is fully repaid); in 2025, when next Kindergarten students graduate from high school (and on May 1, 2025 when the second bond series is fully repaid); on May 1, 2029 when the third bond series is fully repaid; and beyond."

"The May Bond election will cost $35,000 (which bond proceeds can reimburse)" (which just means the funds to pay for it comes out of the $20 million bond and not the general fund, so what?) "and give the district access to bond proceeds in June 2012, allowing us to move forward with 1:Global technology and capital needs updates before school begins in the Fall 2012. The district will fully implement 1 :Global technology for every student in the district within three years."  (You changed this at the 4/9/12 board meeting when you announced that it would really be 1:1 for 6th to 12th grades, 1:2 for 3rd to 5th graders with none of the devices going home with the students, and "classroom technology" for preschool to 2nd grade.  So the plans have changed yet again!)

"The bond series makes technology upgrades sustainable. The technology portion of the bond series, which amounts to 57% of the entire bond, will allow the district, over a period of fifteen years, to continue to update our technology."  (Matt McCarty, the CCS IT director admitted at the 4/9/12 board meeting that there is no way that the $10.5 million will cover all of the IT needed to provide all the technology you are quoting and that the balance would have to come from the general school operating fund.)

"As opposed to traditional bonds that require school districts to spend all of the proceeds in four or five years, the bond series we have selected to utilize gives us sustainability and allows us to consider ongoing technological advancements, along with data from the work of our students and teachers, to make informed decisions about future technological purchases."

"The bond series provides a safety net for the community. lf taxable values increase, the district can adjust the amounts of the second and third series and perhaps get more for our money. If taxable values decrease, the district can adjust the amounts of the second and third series in the bond in order to maintain the one mill increase."  (I am surprised that no one picked up on this.  Read it again.  "If taxable values increase, the district can adjust the amounts of the second and third series and perhaps get more for our money"  This says that they have no plan to keep the bond at $20 million.  Assuming the taxable values of our property goes up, the district will not be collecting the .79 mill rate that Steve Hyer was referring to at a board meeting, but will collect the full one mill and increase the amount of the second and/or third bond series they will borrow.  Read it again.  It contradicts what the district has been publicly saying.)

"The bond series is a sound idea for the Clarkston Community Schools and each of the students we serve. It is an idea that gives this district and community sustainability and safety in meeting our technological and capital needs over the next 17 years. Given the district's commitment to preparing every student we serve for whatever future they choose, this is a very sound investment.

I hope that this is what you want for your child. I hope that this is what you expect from your school system. I hope that this is what you will demand from the educators who serve your children, now and in the future.

Please watch for additional details related to the bond, including videos on cable TV, printed materials, and presentations. You can always find information at the district's Website.

Dr. Rod Rock, Ed.D., is superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools


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