Archive for Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Split developing on whether it’s a good idea to move 9th graders to high school

Lawrence High School Students board buses in this 2009 photo.

Lawrence High School Students board buses in this 2009 photo.

April 13, 2010

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Parents discuss high school reform

Parents of local high school students gathered Tuesday to discuss the possibility of moving to a four-year high school setup. Many parents were in favor of the idea, but there were a good number who were skeptical of the idea as well. Enlarge video

A majority of participants in two recent forums supported moving Lawrence ninth-graders into the high schools.

However, school board members are taking note of survey results that show concerns about any move.

Chief academic officer Kim Bodensteiner said during a forum at Free State High School, 20 of 24 participants said on a written survey that they supported moving freshmen into high schools. But at a Lawrence High School forum, 11 of 16 participants were against the change.

More discussions

Lawrence school board members plan to have two more community discussions with parents about moving sixth-graders into middle schools. The forums will be from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lawrence High School cafeteria, 1901 La., and 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Free State High School’s Black Box Theater, 4700 Overland Drive.

“There’s a concern for the social and emotional well-being of kids in that setting (at Lawrence High). It seemed it definitely was expressed more clearly in the second session than the first one,” said Rich Minder, the school board vice president.

Board members and district administrators are studying school reconfiguration, including moving ninth-graders into high schools as early as 2011-2012 and also moving sixth-grade students into middle schools with seventh- and eighth-graders. Bodensteiner said after the Olathe district changes from three-year to four-year high schools in the fall, Lawrence will be the only district in the state with three-year high schools.

Bodensteiner said district leaders are studying four-year high schools for its benefits, such as a lower dropout rate due to giving ninth-grade students access to more programs and courses.

But like a majority of those responding at the Lawrence High forum, some parents are concerned about Lawrence High School having sufficient space for another grade. Parent Maureen Murray said the district needs to give the public a clear, compelling academic reason for a change.

“I would like to know what’s broken. What are the deficiencies? What are we trying to fix?” Murray asked board members during their Monday.

Board members aren’t ready to say the feedback from the two forums shows a split among Free State and Lawrence High parents. On the survey, the district did not ask participants to note which schools their children attended or would attend. Bodensteiner said a handful of people attended both forums.

Board member Marlene Merrill said it was most telling that only 40 people participated in the forums — while the district is talking moving 750 students up to high schools.

“That says to me that there is comfort with the discussions that we’re having about moving and not big concerns for what we have proposed,” she said.

Comments

Dayna Lee 5 years, 3 months ago

I am very pro- leave it alone! Leave it alone!!!!

Dayna Lee 5 years, 3 months ago

I am very pro- leave it alone! Leave it alone!!!!

Bob Forer 5 years, 3 months ago

Not exactly a statistically sound sample for determination of citizen viewpoints. I am still waiting to hear from our educational leaders the compelling reasons for the suggested change. Sadly, LJW reporters lack the basic wherewithall to get the heart of an issue. Come on, grow some testicals and ask officials a simple question: what is your reasoning behind the proposed change? Basic reporting, no?

SpeedRacer 5 years, 3 months ago

There is nothing in this article that suggests any split is developing as implied by the headline. If any school board member is letting 11 nays influence him/her, that member is an idiot. As stated by Marlene Merrill at the end, there have only been 40 participants in the forums indicating there "is comfort with the discussions".

PennyBrite 5 years, 3 months ago

there was a storm the night of the meeting at LHS. Maybe that's why not many people went.....

KS 5 years, 3 months ago

Just leave it alone. Let kids be kids before you throw them into a high school enviornment. Why do peple think they have to justify their jobs. Leave it alone, for heaven's sake!

AreUKiddingMe 5 years, 3 months ago

Lawrence is the only town I know of that has freshmen, aka 9th graders, NOT in the high school. Worried about the emotioal stress??? Are U Kidding Me??? It's just as stressfull if u move them after 8th grade or after 9th grade! Stop codling the kids and toughen them up. LIFE ISNT EASY! 7th and 8th grade is when u need to start learning that..

Terry Jacobsen 5 years, 3 months ago

I am an LHS parent, but went to the first forum at Free State. There were very few participants. I was surprised that so few people showed up. The district did a great job of talking about the basic reasons that they were considering it. Then we broke into groups where we were each allowed to share and express our concerns about various aspects of the "possible" move. The district leaders were very unassuming and were very interested in hearing what we had to say. Obviously not many of the responders on here attended either meeting. I wish everyone could attend one of these forums. It was enlightening and it felt like we were being heard. Thanks to all involved!

parrothead8 5 years, 3 months ago

I went to school in four different states while growing up, and the high schools in all of them served grades 9-12. If I or any of my friends wound up socially or emotionally damaged, I don't think it had anything to do with being in 9th grade at the high school. High schools have more clubs, activities, and sports. I loved being in high school in 9th grade.

cato_the_elder 5 years, 3 months ago

TJ_in_Lawrence (and other USD 497 parents), you need to read up on what is called "The Delphi Technique." You got used that night, TJ, but you probably don't know it. Don't be offended - you're not alone. It's been used for over 25 years in public education meetings all over the country, and as long as you don't realize how you're being manipulated it works quite effectively for those in charge.

sad_lawrencian 5 years, 3 months ago

According to the headline, a "split" is developing over the issue. After reading the article, I fail to understand where is there a "split" at all? Quoting the article: "Board members aren’t ready to say the feedback ... shows a split among ... parents." So where is a "split"?

It sounds like the issue is pretty clear-cut. Most parents support moving the 9th graders to the high schools. ("11 of 16 participants" being against the change is hardly a statistically-significant sample of 750 students.) How about surveying all the affected parents?

Another interesting section: "After...Olathe, Lawrence will be the only district in the state with three-year high schools." It looks like the handwriting is on the wall. If every other district in the state of Kansas has four-year high schools, where is the issue? It seems pretty clear that Lawrence should make this change already. And sixth graders are still considered elementary-school students? What?

anonyname 5 years, 3 months ago

I found it funny that the article about a "split developing" has a "more like this" section at the end with a link to an article from ten years ago regarding discussion of the same potential split. Apparently it's been developing for a loooooong time.

Danimal 5 years, 3 months ago

Olathe is going to four year high schools next year. Lawrence, it's time to join the 21st century, especially since it's already 1/10th over.

spiderd 5 years, 3 months ago

We should definitely be using the rest of Kansas as our perfect role model and not question whether its right for our situation or not. Yes, let's do that.

Clickker 5 years, 3 months ago

I am an LHS parent and went to the Free state HS forum since I live 1.1 miles from Free State, and 4.5 miles to LHS ( anyone that lives on the west side, but slightly south of 15th has this dilemna)..so they must have just assumed our kids went to FS since we went to that forum

BigAl 5 years, 3 months ago

I don't have a dog in the fight but it seems to me that having 4 year high schools makes perfect sense. Also, different subject, I think it is time to evaluate the dividing line on the High Schools. 15th is fine but at some point east and west, there should be a line to allow those students to attend the closest school. People on the far west side have to drive all the way to LHS while the people on the far east side have to drive all the way to FSHS. Sooner or later, common sense has to come in to play and hurt feelings need to be shelved.

jubilee 5 years, 3 months ago

The School Board and people who have been attending the meetings have spent months listening to reasons why smaller, neighborhood schools are better for students. In fact, the Board agreed with this reasoning in the recent decision to maintain all elementary schools. It would be good if the Board would apply this reasoning to high school education as well; it is the education---not the building that is important.

Moving 9th graders to the high school buildings will increase school population by 33%. That is significant. Read the comments of a KU professor from one of the meetings:

"Barker and Gump found that as school size grew, the opportunities for students to take on new roles grew as well. Larger schools offer more opportunity, it's true. The problem is that the opportunities—to be on an athletic team, to be on student government, to represent the school at the Science and Engineering Fair—do not grow as quickly as the student body does. Smaller schools offer more opportunity PER STUDENT than larger schools."

Ninth grade students are currently treated and graded as ninth graders. They are taught by certified, licensed, qualified professional educators. They perform at or above ninth graders across the state by objective measures. In the current configuration, there are more opportunities per student and the students are, generally speaking, closer to home (ie, neighborhood school).

What is the compelling academic reason for the change?

puckstah 5 years, 3 months ago

I think the compelling reason for the change isn't academic at all - it's financial. If you jam as many kids into as few schools as possible, increase your teacher/student ratio, you can cut teachers and close buildings.

Mark Thompson 5 years, 3 months ago

The reasons for the change I have heard are more athletic than academic. In short, scheduling athletic events is easier if the 9th graders are part of high school because that's how all the other schools are configured. With 9th graders in the high schools, freshmen would be able to participate in football, varsity basketball, and other "high school" sports.

Those who know me know that I appreciate sports as much or more than the next, but I also believe that if a school decision (jr. high, high, college,...) is made primarily in the interests of athletics, that is typically a poor basis on which to make that decision.

I am a big believer in letting kids be kids before we shove them into adulthood. The rate of health risk behaviors (sex, alcohol, drug use...) increases as you place younger kids with older ones. On this point, it is more of an issue to keep the 6th graders in elementary school, but that will be a discussion a year from now.

For the person who wants to move kids up to "toughen them up", seriously???????

Kash_Encarri 5 years, 3 months ago

While true that it would allow 9th graders to play up if they were at the high schools instead of the junior highs, athletics is NOT the impetus for this change being discussed. The source of this discussion is academics, and to answer jackson's question below, there is money to be saved by moving the 9th graders up. You will be able to combine programs being offered at all four jr highs AND the two high schools into just the high school programs. This would require some expansion at the HS level to accomodate those kids that are taking those classes at the JH level, but you'd cut down in the over all number of sections needed.

"I am a big believer in letting kids be kids before we shove them into adulthood. The rate of health risk behaviors (sex, alcohol, drug use...) increases as you place younger kids with older ones." You do realize that there is drug and alcohol use going on in the grade schools already do you not? You are aware that at least two of the Jr. Highs are dealing with girls who are expecting (both of them that I am aware of are NOT 9th graders though the daddy is for one of them). You all are wanting to protect the 9th graders from the Seniors. It's the 7th and 8th graders that need protection from the 9th graders right now. Most Seniors won't even give second thought to the 9th graders if they are moved to the HS.

Mark Thompson 5 years, 3 months ago

The "discussion" is veiled in academics, but you need to look at the total picture and understand that athletics is a significant factor in why this is even being discussed.

Regarding my awareness of alcohol and drug use, etc... at the elementary and jr high schools, I find your tone insulting. It's not about protecting 9th graders from seniors (or 6th graders from 8th graders), it's about what environment we want our children in, and all statistics show an increase in risk behaviors as they progress through junior high and high school. By delaying this exposure a year, the rate of involvement decreases. To just throw your hands in the air and say that they'll have sex, use drugs, ... anyway is irresponsible.

puckstah 5 years, 3 months ago

The discussion regarding moving 6th graders to the jr. highs is happening April 15 and April 20. See http://www.usd497.org/documents/CommunityDiscussions6_8MiddleSchools.pdf

dani36921 5 years, 3 months ago

I am a senior at LHS right now and let me tell you, THERE IS NO ROOM. Plain and simple. Yes we have a wonderfully huge parking lot right now, but we didn't add classrooms and lockers and we definitely don't have enough teachers so you are going to have to add teachers who maybe don't want to move up to high school but have to because of qualifications. Don't forget to mention they don't get a classroom. It's silly to change something just because everyone else has it a certain way.

jackson5 5 years, 3 months ago

One month ago, everything was about costs and budget constraints. Now, the district is making this decision without even discussing money.

Will this change save money - if so, what programs/facilities will receive additional funding from the freed-up funds? Will this cost money - if so, what programs/facilities will be reduced/cut to pay for this change?

Fiinally, will this change to 9-12 require additional facilities or re-purposing existing facilities? How much will that cost?

puckstah 5 years, 3 months ago

Agreed, jackson5. A few months ago, there was so much emphasis placed on efficiency and corporate models for efficient schools. I believe the corporate model would suggest that an in depth COST ANALYSIS be conducted on a move of this nature. And not just how it would impact high schools, but the other schools as well. Where is that information?

Grundoon Luna 5 years, 3 months ago

I moved here from Chicago after graduating from 8th grade. I was so-o-o-o-o PO'd to find that I was still in junior high school. If the rest of the country can have 9-12 in high school then so can Lawrence. Still, though, I was glad to be here. The junior high I went to was pretty rough but nothing compared to Kenwood High School. Really ghetto plagued and NOT ghetto fabulous.

John Hampton 5 years, 3 months ago

I don't think you do something just because others do it.

I also don't think you say they are doing it wrong because we currently do it differently... and using the emotional readiness or kids being kids for one more year argument is a the wrong argument.

I went to a 4 year high school and a 6-8 grade junior high... as do most of the rest of the country's kids. Are you really suggesting that we are the only ones or one of the few doing it right? Really?

I don't say "it's time to move to the 21st century", I say it's time we caught up with what most of the country was doing five decades or more ago. Seriously.

The first year in high school can be a difficult transformation for kids. I personally think it is more detrimental for some kids to have this change come with only two real years left before they have to apply for college and take ACTs. Given that a fair amount suffer through the sophomore year, that leaves one year's time to get ready for the college prep (the senior year is simply a year to maintain grade waiting to go to college the following year, imo.).

I see nothing wrong and a lot right with getting this transition period over in the 9th grade giving two solid years for college prep. In fact I lived it and can vouch that it's a good thing.

On a side note (and I see this every day in friends and family) I think there is a very large portion of parents in this community that epitomize "helicopter moms" and dads. I don't like this trend and see it as over coddling and over involvement to the point of vicarious living. In some cases I see kids walking around with an overly developed sense of entitlement that I believe comes from this parental behaviour.

I agree with the poster that said let kids be kids.... let them grow out of it starting in the 9th grade at one of our high schools.

songbird 5 years, 3 months ago

I completely agree with Jackson5 there needs to be a complete financial analysis of this move, short term and long range planning! What if we move 9th graders and 6th graders, will we end up with overcrowded high schools, an expensive middle school population ( there have been previous postings saying Jr. High has the highest cost per pupil) AND empty elementary buildings causing neighborhood decline and eliminating the neighborhood school concept. I also agree that people are "tired" from the elementary school closure fiasco that we have recently experienced. We need to show up if we are concerned about the future of Lawrence schools. Regardless of your stance, show up and be heard - see the big picture, don't be complacent about the high school and middle school issue just because you have elementary kids. They are all tied together.

booyalab 5 years, 3 months ago

I didn't learn anything after 8th grade (no I didn't drink or do drugs or skip classes) I say get rid of 9th through 12th grades entirely. Send them out into the real world.

booyalab 5 years, 3 months ago

I guess I should amend that. I didn't learn anything that they don't make you take in college anyway.

sourpuss 5 years, 3 months ago

Lawrence is very providential with their little three-year high schools. Just do Elementary to fifth, Middle school to eighth and High school to twelfth. Oh, and if your ninth grader is emotionally damaged by being around seniors, you'd better finish off that basement and make better investments, because congrats! you've got yourself a permanent child.

pace 5 years, 3 months ago

I would prefer that 9th and 10th. be sent to one, and 11th. and 12th. to the other. but given that it is not really on the table, Then 9th to 12th. would be the next best idea.

Clickker 5 years, 3 months ago

its not about athletics. With a stroke of the pen, all 9th grade sports and cheerleading could be moved up to the HS's like wrestling was this year. In fact that still may happen next year without moving the entire population up. As has been said, its about cost savings and academic choice broadening

Alfred_W 5 years, 3 months ago

I'll offer just one example of academic/financial benefits (I don't claim to know how many more there might or might not be).

Budgetwise, the move will make certain academic tracks - like foreign language - more streamlined and cost-effective. There will be fewer sections needed in beginning Spanish, French and German because the student populations are consolidated. This helps with teacher ratios overall and may result in need for less staff. And academically, the kids in the beginning level would be in school with kids from the upper level classes and have more opportunities for interactions with their peers (through clubs and activities) that would reinforce their classroom learning.

Absent other factors, Is this one example reason enough to make the move? Nope. But you can't say there is not ANY budgetary or academic benefit for having the freshmen on the same campus as the rest of the high school kids. Whether those benefits would be offset by negative factors is what needs to be determined.

jackson5 5 years, 3 months ago

Alfred_W - I realize you just offered language as one example but I am going to follow the thought through just a bit.
If we have fewer sections of Spanish, French and German because it is consolidated at the high schools, what does this mean for language at the middle schools since savings only comes from reducing staff?

  1. Do we still offer spanish 1 in 8th grade (which would require a lot of windshield time for the middle school spanish teacher)?
  2. Or do we expand spanish to 7th graders (which is no cost savings at all)?
  3. Or do we start languages at ninth grade (which puts at another disadvantage vs. Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley curriculum)?

Your observation is a good one but I am not hearing the district provide any of these details. I cannot decide if I support this until they tell me how it will work, what it will save/cost and how this will affect middle school and elementary education.

The district has been studying this for years. They must have a really good idea about what will need to happen since they are recommending to the board in two weeks. Why aren't they sharing the results of their studies of facilties, costs/savings, and curriculum impacts with the public?

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