Archive for Friday, April 2, 2010

Proposed ninth-grade shift draws range of responses

April 2, 2010


Lawrence school board members heard a mix of support, questions and concerns from parents Thursday about moving ninth-graders into the district’s two high schools.

“My wife and I both were in a four-grade high school, and we feel it’s a good thing,” said Shawn Brockway, a parent of two students in the Lawrence district. “Freshmen should be in high school with the high schoolers.”

Board discusses moving 9th graders to high school

A discussion to make Lawrence high schools four years received mixed input from the community. Enlarge video

Chief Academic Officer Kim Bodensteiner said administrators believe the district has enough space at the district’s two high schools to move ninth-graders up. She says research also indicates an earlier high school start leads to a lower dropout rate.

But Sam Rabiola, a ninth-grade parent, said he has concerns about the district having enough room for four grades each at Lawrence and Free State high schools. Rabiola taught at the crowded LHS before the district opened Free State in 1997 to free up space.

“Literally, you were cheek-to-jowl surrounded by people, and not everyone can do well in that environment,” said Rabiola, a Free State English teacher who came to the forum as a parent and not to represent the school’s staff.

He said the district would need to do something with expanding space at the high schools for four grades because it closed the alternative high school years ago and that schools today need more classroom space, like for special education.

“There are more demands for space that help all students be successful,” Rabiola said.

About 25 parents and members of the public attended the meeting at Free State High School. They met in small groups with board members and administrators and discussed different topics about the shift. Board members are considering the change for the 2011-2012 school year.

Board President Scott Morgan said participants in the discussion seemed to be open to move but also supportive of the district’s current setup.

“They were concerned about losing what we have, but they were also excited about the opportunities we are opening up,” Morgan said.

A second ninth-grade forum will be from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lawrence High School, 1901 La. The district plans to soon offer four more forums in coming weeks at the four junior high schools about the possibility of moving sixth-graders into middle schools with seventh- and eighth-graders.


cato_the_elder 8 years, 2 months ago

Both the Board and the public should listen to Sam Rabiola. USD 497 cannot do this effectively without building a third high school. We simply can't afford to do that, especially in these times. If ninth graders remain where they are, we won't need a third high school for twenty years or more.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 2 months ago

Do we have classrooms that are not being used???

I think there are a lot questions that the district should answer. Just because Sam remembers how it was before Free State doesn't mean it will be the same way.

By the way Cato didn't the SONS group fight so hard to save small schools, why can't we have a small high school??

cato_the_elder 8 years, 2 months ago

Commuter, if this goes through then each high school will be much bigger. Is that what you want? Or do you want to rip the taxpayers off again by building a third high school that we don't need?

Steve Miller 8 years, 2 months ago

It will be good for the little tykes, it will teach them some respect when the upper classmen rough'em up a little bit for bumping into them in the hall ways..

alm77 8 years, 2 months ago

“Literally, you were cheek-to-jowl surrounded by people, and not everyone can do well in that environment,” said Rabiola, a Free State English teacher

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use the word 'literally' and then give a figurative statement and this from and English teacher!

jubilee 8 years, 2 months ago

I have asked the School Board several times to articulate the purpose of moving ninth graders to the the upperclassmen's buildings at FS and LHS. So far, I have not received an answer. I would like to know how the educational opportunities for ninth graders will be improved. In the present configuration, ninth graders have many leadership opportunities at a point in their development when they are establishing their self identity. In ninth grade they have greater ability and maturity than in eighth, so they can achieve goals in those leadership positions, they can participate and contribute more meaningfully in ninth than in eighth. Dropping those leadership positions down to eigth grade will not impact the students' development as greatly. As ninth graders in a four year school, they will lose those opportunities and be "little fish" in the big pond.

I hear parents say "My child is ready for high school." I don't know what that is supposed to mean. Do those parents know about the gun and drugs found at FS a couple of weeks ago? Lawrence junior high schools nurture students for an additional year. I have been told by usd497 officials that our ninth graders perform at or better than the average Kansas student...we should keep it that way....

at least until the School Board can articulate reasons for the reconfiguration beyone "everyone else does it that way" and "it will be easier for administrative purposes to be aligned with the state curriculum."

Jim Williamson 8 years, 2 months ago

Jubilee -- so 9th grade is a magical year where they become significantly smarter and better equipped to handle leadership positions than 8th graders. Can you provide me a link to something -- anything -- to back that up?

Hell, by that logic, let's bump 10th graders back to middle school -- after all, they are a year older, a year smarter and year better equipped to handle leadership positions and educational opportunities.

Or does this exponential emotional and academic development occur only between August 1 and May 30 of their 9th grade year? Does any meaningful growth and development occur in grades K through 8? Does it stop once the child finishes 9th grade?

Some Lawrence parents really need to back off and let their kids succeed or fall on their faces all by themselves. If your 14- or 15-year-old isn't ready and equipped to make the adjustments necessary to handle the rigors of high school, something went awry along the way.

honestone 8 years, 2 months ago

11th and 12th graders to FSHS w open campus 9th and 10th to LHS w a closed campus 6th graders to the junior highs more room in the overcrowded grade schools.

jubilee 8 years, 2 months ago

Phoggan, Hopefully, no, the child's development doesn't end when his or her ninth grade year ends. Certainly meaningful development occurs during K-8. However, students' ability to reason and work independently is greater in ninth grade than in eighth. So, keeping the ninth graders in the junior highs means that they have the leads/leadership opportunities in the plays, in chorale, in student council, in yearbook, band, in the year when they can independently make a difference. I don't have a link for you, but you can talk to any of the junior high teachers, counselors, principals, etc. to verify the difference in abilities from 7th to 9th grades.

By the time the students are in tenth grade, their organizational abilities, study skills, self-perception have grown by another year and it is appropriate to move them into the larger environment. The School Board recognizes that transitioning ninth graders to the high school buildings will require additional support. They have talked about maintaining the 9th graders in "pods" and want the extra year to determine strategies for the successful transition. It is not simply a matter of "backing off and letting kids succeed or fall on their faces all by themselves."

My point is that Lawrence has a successful school configuration. Last year's FS graduating class sent kids to KU, KState, Yale, MIT, and Columbia, to name a few. The year before that one went to Julliard. If the School Board and/or the Superintendent want to change the configuration, they should articulate how the change will improve educational achievement in measurable objectives.

not_that_crazy 8 years, 2 months ago

There are many more opportunities at high schools for more challenging core classes (like advanced math) and for other classes (like art and debate) at the high school level. We are the only district in the state that will not have a four year high school.

The state curriculum is set up by the state department of education using a 4-year model. This is whether your child is college bound and taking AP everything or the new career paths that focus on developing skills.

songbird 8 years, 2 months ago

Honestone, would they be lions or firebirds? What about classes and activities that cross grade levels? For ex. A 10th grader taking calculus or Latin or playing varsity sports? Wouldn't transportation costs go through the roof?

Eddie Muñoz 8 years, 2 months ago

Wasn't overcrowding one of the big reasons we got LFSHS?

cato_the_elder 8 years, 2 months ago

Jubilee, this whole exercise is being driven by a small number of sports-obsessed parents who think that their ninth grade kids can play sports against high school seniors. Yes, I know, a few probably can. It is also being driven by a few board members who want to build a third high school. End of story.

The_Sandwichman 8 years, 2 months ago

Developmentally, since moving the 6th graders up to jr. high is also part of the plan, wouldn't the 8th graders then get the leadership chances thus making them mature even faster?

LHS at least does not have the room for it. That's the bottom line. There are already several classes with a size in the mid-twenties, these mainly being core classes and popular electives. In order to get the necessary room a few things would need to happen:

1: Open the annex back up for students 2: Get rid of electives that don't have at least 15 students in the class. This would give more space but at the price of losing many students favorite classes because while those classes have lower enrollment per class, many students are in at least one or two classes like that. 3: Install more lockers somewhere. There are not enough. 4: Make the primary hallways about 10 feet wider so people can walk through them. It's bad enough as it is now.

People do realize we went to two high schools mainly due to space and class sizes. Increasing the size of the high schools just makes that a problem again.

not_that_crazy 8 years, 2 months ago

"cato_the_elder (anonymous) says… Jubilee, this whole exercise is being driven by a small number of sports-obsessed parents who think that their ninth grade kids can play sports against high school seniors. "

I think you are behind. They already figured out how to get it done at the end of the season this year for basketball. Pretty much much assumed that it will happen next year as part of cost savings. Not a done deal...but it is clear you don't need to move the kids there to play sports. A majority of varsity sports (like cross county, soccer and swimming) already feature 9th graders.

You do have to move the kids there to take Calculus and forensics.

jubilee 8 years, 2 months ago

@Sandwichman, If the School Board doesn't have to cut the activities, then eighth graders could move into some of the positions. However, time is needed for kids to learn skills and to mature. That is why, giving the eighth graders those same leadership positions will not have the same benefit. At least this is true for the choral, band, and drama programs. The younger students see the achievement levels of the 9th graders and strive to imitate it.

@notthatcrazy, Students NOW take advanced Math classes in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. They take Adv. Biology in 9th grade. They don't have to go to the other buildings for that. Our experience has been that my students, even taking zero hours every year, could not fit all the courses they wanted to take into their schedules. More options are not needed, at least not for college prep. Perhaps on the vocational/technical side there is a need, I can't speak to that.
Lawrence is meeting the objectives set up for high school education as laid out by the state department of education. The department of education doesn't mandate 4 year high school buildings. Changing just because everyone else does it that way, ie. we are the only school in the state that does it this way, isn't a reason to change.

monkeyspunk 8 years, 2 months ago

I can't argue that one would be better than the other, and I do think changing just to be consistent with everyone else is kind of stupid.

Having said that, NOT changing when it would help the system fiscally is just as stupid.

If you can prove fiscal benefit from this, then I say let them do it. There is way too much emotional bias here without any foundation in fact or science, mostly coming from jubilee.

There are tons of similar successes throughout Kansas in 4 year schools as to what Jubilee claims happen in Lawrence. It has more to do with the parents and the community than it does with grade labels and building assignments.

Clickker 8 years, 2 months ago

"cato_the_elder (anonymous) says… Jubilee, this whole exercise is being driven by a small number of sports-obsessed parents who think that their ninth grade kids can play sports against high school seniors. "

What is this based on? I had heard they are going to move ALL 9th grade sports up to the HS's next fall ( a year before the 9th grade general population moves up). In fact, the South Jr high web site shows High school cheerleading tryouts coming up for all 9th and sophs TO BE!

bendover61 8 years, 2 months ago

The empty class rooms for the 9th graders do not exist at the high schools, a third high school or additions will need to be built at the existing high schools.

Jeff Cuttell 8 years, 2 months ago

Does anyone else wonder how Danny Bonaduchi got on the school board?

cato_the_elder 8 years, 2 months ago

Not_that_crazy and clikker, ninth graders have been participating in some sports at the high school level (e.g., baseball, softball, swimming, cross country) for many years. They do not participate in football and volleyball, among others, even at the end of the junior high season. Obviously, if ninth grade football and volleyball programs, for example, were eliminated, then only half the sports opportunities currently available to ninth-grade football and volleyball players would remain. Some kids will never play after ninth grade, and many won't have the chance to play at all if this proposal is implemented. It's astounding to many of us that the "opportunities" crowd, which drove splitting LHS in the first place, could stand idly by and watch our present athletic opportunities for many ninth graders get sawed in half.

Bill Lee 8 years, 2 months ago

Here's a thought I haven's seen articulated yet. How about moving the students who have a 3.0 or higher GPA to the the high schools, and keep those who don't at the junior highs for more "nurturing?" I might motivate eighth graders without overcrowding the hight schools.

kansaskate 8 years, 2 months ago

It certainly can't have anything to do with the risk to athletics if they are demoted a division due to decreased enrollment.......

areyousure 8 years, 2 months ago

One reason that I have been told for the change - in order to teach a ninth grade class, a teacher has to be certified to teach 9-12 grades. By moving the 9th graders to the high school, there is more flexibility for assigning teachers to classes.

With the ninth graders at the junior highs, not all the teachers are certified to teach a 9th grade class.

Clickker 8 years, 2 months ago

"For those worried about overcrowding, exactly what was the student count for LHS before FSHS was built"

I think it was around 1800

jubilee 8 years, 2 months ago

Frank Harwood presented a powerpt report to the School Board on Oct 26th on the space situation at the high schools. It gave the capacity numbers and projected enrollments. It should be on the usd497 website under new business that from the 26th, but I couldn't pull it up. Can anyone else?

cato_the_elder 8 years, 2 months ago

By all calculations, housing ninth grade students in the high school buildings will almost immediately take each building to where LHS was before it was split. That's why you'll hear the hue and cry for a third high school before you know it, and it will emanate first from the USD 497 headquarters. It should also be borne in mind that more space is needed in high school buildings now than used to be the case even 13 years ago when the LHS split officially came on line, especially given our presently greater sensibilities to young people with special needs. Seriously, folks, how do you feel knowing that they think you're too ignorant or unconcerned to realize this and it will just blow over into another bond election that they can foist on the community? When is enough enough? For those who are concerned about closing elementary schools, do you not realize the effect that moving 6th graders to renamed "middle school" buildings will have on elementary enrollments? Why do we have to do this simply to please a very small number of people? Think carefully about this proposal - it will have a profound impact on the delivery of educational services in the community and how we are asked to pay for it.

puckstah 8 years, 2 months ago

Beware of the "capacity" numbers district administration is sharing. They are based on a mathematical formula, NOT on true numbers such as number of classrooms, size of classrooms, etc.

cato_the_elder 8 years, 2 months ago

Did_I_say_that, your last two posts are spectacular. The news stories you unearthed categorically confirm the fact that the hidden agenda here is a third high school. Many of us have known this for a long time. Perhaps you will shame the J-W beat reporter into doing his homework, including re-reading his own article from 2007, and giving the public an honest expose uncovering what the real agenda is here.

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